A father's letter at confirmation: "To my son, as he joins the church"

A father's letter at confirmation: "To my son, as he joins the church"

Dear Patrick,

Two Sundays ago, you stood before our church with other members of your confirmation class and promised to be faithful to the church and support it with your prayers, presence, gifts, and service.

During your confirmation class, your teachers and pastors gave you a lot of information about God, about Jesus, about our denomination, and about your commitment to the church.

Much of it probably went in one ear and out the other. I know it did for me when I went through the same class more than 35 years ago.

The truth is, while you had excellent teachers and pastors that you know and like, you will learn more by fulfilling your promises to the church than you did by listening in class.

Your faith, like your mom’s and mine, like all of ours, is a journey. There is no point where the learning stops.
When you were confirmed, you promised to support the church with your prayers.

You have prayed since you were old enough to understand what it meant to pray. I have heard you thank God for all the people around you and ask God to make the sick better and the well to stay well.

Lots of people do that.

But I also have heard you make special requests – that one of your friends have a better day or that an animal might experience improved health.

I know you know how to pray from your heart, so I hope you will include our church and the church in the world in your prayers.

When you were confirmed, you promised to support the church with your presence.

Sometimes, you probably think it’s hard to get up early for Sunday school and church when you have to get up for school five days a week. You’re not the only one who has a tough time. But think what you might miss if you didn’t go to church – a valuable lesson in your class, a chance to sing one of the songs you love, something interesting that your pastor might say.

It’s important to be a part of a church for we believe it is the body of Christ.

It is there that you once, as a small child, said, “I see ... angels.” We believed it. It is there that one particular couple – both professionals in the community – agreed to follow your progress, care for you, and support you as you grew. They’re not members of your family, but they care about you. It was at a gathering of your confirmation class several weeks ago that you saw a boy your own age baptized in a creek at his request as the sun filtered through the branches of a tree. It was a meaningful ceremony that can’t be captured in a PSP game.

When you were confirmed, you promised to support the church with your gifts.

I have learned through the years that when I make my contribution to the church first, I seem to have so much more later. Funny how that works. Of course, gifts doesn’t mean just money, but it’s important that part of what you earn helps the church do its work in the community and in the world.

You probably aren’t aware of it, but a contribution to your church might help a college student in Africa, a missionary in Nepal, a hurricane victim in Mississippi, or a child in Chattanooga who needs a place to go after school.

Where could you invest your money better?

And, when you were confirmed, you promised to support the church with your service.

Already you have volunteered to be a greeter at the doors where your service is held. I hope that will be the start of a lifetime of service in whatever church you are a part of.

For me, service is one of my favorite parts of my membership. Over the years, among other things, I have helped coordinate youth activities in a church, decided how much to increase the pastor’s salary, glued popsicle sticks together as a Sunday school teacher, worked a television camera so someone might watch the church’s service at home, and told a timeless story through the magic of puppetry.

So what does it mean to be a member of your church?

It means you are as much a part of everything that goes on there as your mom and I. It also means there are 2,600 other people around you in one church who have made the same promise. It means you are being counted on.

Joining the church is another part of your faith journey, a faith only you and God can finally determine. But, remember, it’s not a destination but a journey. God bless you on your journey.

Love, Dad

This column originally appeared in the June 3, 2006, edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reprinted with permission.