This sermon was given by Julia Hogan from St. John's Church in Franklin, at a youth-led service at St. John's on May 3. It has been lightly edited for content and clarity. Julia is a member of St. John's and a sophomore at Franklin High School. She is scheduled to be confirmed on May 16.
When I decided that I wanted to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church, I did not fully understand what that commitment meant. I will be honest here: at the beginning of this journey I did not think of it as anything more than a “church thing,” just like Sunday school and going to church was. Beyond these understandings of Confirmation, I was pretty much clueless.
Fast forward from the beginning of the Confirmation process to a couple classes in, and at this point I had
begun to wonder about the discussions in class and had many questions about my religion and what certain subjects and topics meant, (which thanks to Paula [Toland] were answered either directly or indirectly!). I figured this too was also what Confirmation meant: a time where one explores one’s faith and asks questions. Of course this is certainly true, but my real realization and understanding of what my Confirmation meant, and what being an Episcopalian even meant, came through when the class went on the Confirmation retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Camp in New Hampshire.
On the retreat, lots of other churches were there with teens who were also looking to get confirmed. Although I am sure everyone would have to preferred not to have stepped outside of their comfort zone, we were split up into groups with other kids that we didn’t know. From there on, we spent most of the retreat in these groups. Although it was uncomfortable at first, the groups quickly bonded and we ended up having a great time together.
Throughout the trip, the groups had discussions, ranging from Bible studies to what we liked to do in our free time. I distinctly remember one discussion that my group had, which was based around a reading taken from the Bible. I do not specifically remember what the reading said, but I do remember what we talked about after. We had somehow begun to discuss the issue of equality as it connected to the main idea of the reading. It was during this discussion that I finally had a true realization of what being an Episcopalian and being confirmed meant.
As an Episcopalian, or being religious for that matter, it means much more than going to church every Sunday. It means fulfilling what our religion is really about. A major component of our faith is being accepting of everyone, striving to respect the dignity of others. This means disregarding race, sexuality, gender, etc. I realized that part of being confirmed meant that since we are now recognized as full bodies in the church, it is our responsibility to encompass this component into our everyday lives.
To me, that is what being an Episcopalian is really about. Anyone can go to church every week, attend church gatherings, etc. But, fulfilling what your faith strives to do every day and what God does for us every day by accepting us despite our flaws, is truly what part of the Episcopal tradition is. When I think about it, I am proud to say I am an Episcopalian, as I am a part of an institution that is so accepting and open minded in a society that can be quite the contrary.
So, as I conclude my 15 seconds of fame up here in front of all of you, I want to reflect on my time with the Confirmation class. We have shared so many laughs and great times, whether it was in class discussing our homework we had for the week, at the camp and our “Not Camp Appropriate” jokes, (otherwise known as NCA) or getting lost in the mall looking for Panera Bread, (which turned out not to even be in the mall) on the way home from the retreat. I want to thank my wonderful classmates, whom I have become friends with over the past couple of months--you guys made the class fun and I want to thank you for that.
And to everyone here, I want to remind you: be kind to one another, be accepting of others and love one another, as that is what being Episcopalian is truly about.
-- Julia Hogan