An Introduction at the Church of England General Synod 5 July 2024

Your Grace, distinguished Synod members; sisters and brothers in Christ.

It is my great honor and joy to introduce to you the good co-operation the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland does with the Church of England in relation to Confirmation training. The Porvoo Declaration has made it possible for us to develop jointly the Christian education among our young people.

In Finland, approximately 73 % of all 14-16-agers in the country attend Confirmation training and get subsequently confirmed. It has remained a part of youth culture, perhaps for two reasons: first, the training takes place on a summer camp of one week – what could be more fun for a teenager than to get together with friends to a lakeside resort, to sing and play at a campfire, and to get to know new people, to discuss deep questions and to experience recollection and devotion? Second, in every class there are some older youths who have had their confirmation a year or two earlier and who voluntarily serve as group leaders on an equal level.

In what follows, I will shortly discuss the theology and methodology underpinning the Finnish confirmation training program. After that, my colleague Revd Risto Korhonen will talk about the joint camps my diocese runs together with the Diocese of Manchester, and after this part, our young voluntaries, Mss. Enni and Stella, will talk more about the camp they will prepare for next week.

The present Confirmation plan has an apt name: The Great Miracle. It refers to Psalm 139 which expresses amazement at the wonderful works of God and at human existence as created by Him: ‘I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ (Ps 139: 14) The plan is based upon an earlier plan that carried the title Life, Faith, and Prayer, which reflected the three sections of Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Apostolic Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Together these three form the backbone of Christianity. The Commandments tell what God demands from you, the Creed expresses what God gives to you, and Prayer is the means through which all that comes to you.

This triad rests on the trinitarian faith in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It culminates in the second article of faith, the one on the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the center of Christianity. Rooted in this, the Confirmation training takes three approaches, namely those of Life, Faith, and Prayer.

We begin with the questions of life. Each person is created and redeemed by God, a great miracle. We also focus on the relationship individuals have with themselves, with other people and with all of Creation. How does one live a good life? God, who created you, has made you precisely who you are – and you can put your trust in God, who has sent Jesus to be your Savior. You will encounter Christ in the word of God, in prayer and in the Sacraments. The plan focuses on the Eucharist and encourages the young people to regularly participate in it.

The mission is to strengthen the youth in their faith in the triune God and equip them for life as a Christian. This folds out in six goals. In preparing for their confirmation, the young people:

  • are involved, are heard, and have influence,
  • experience connection, communion, safety, holiness, and joy,
  • learn to care for their spiritual life in action, in silence, and in engagement,
  • take responsibility for themselves, for other people and for Creation,
  • see in their own lives the meaning of the central tenets of Christianity, and
  • want to be part of the Church of Christ.

The aim of confirmation training is to create a meaningful dialogue between Christian doctrine and the life of each confirmand. We hope them to find faith in Christ significant on a personal level.

After this theoretical orientation I hand it over to my colleagues to highlight the practice.