August 2, 2018
Dear Heavenly Rest families,
I’ve spent my entire adulthood teaching in some capacity or another—at a boarding school in England, independent schools here in the city, a summer camp in Vermont—but nothing quite compares with the experience I had teaching confirmation classes at Heavenly Rest alongside the Rev. Tuesday Rupp. When teaching in schools, you generally try to use the content you’re covering to allow students to explore larger questions about themselves and the world they inhabit. A knotty algebraic equation provides an opportunity to discover newfound levels of determination; a novel launches a debate about the limits of empathy; a science unit on dark matter makes the universe seem suddenly vast, strange, and wonderful. But at some point in the semester, teachers relegate those larger questions to the back burner; grades are due, exams are looming, and there’s another chapter to race through in the textbook.
In confirmation class, that standard formula gets flipped. Questions about ourselves and the world drive our exploration of whatever content we cover, and so what seems most meaningful, mysterious, and important in our lives becomes the lens through which we talk about God, explore our faith, and learn about the church and our relationship to it. We know that most teenagers don’t bring the highest expectations to the confirmation process. (Churches don’t poll kids to ask their reasons for enrolling in confirmation class; they don’t have to, knowing full well that the top answer would surely be a variation of “because my parents are making me.”) The curriculum that Tuesday adapted for Heavenly Rest does a wonderful job confounding expectations, and what may feel at first like an obligation can give way to a sense of invitation: into a community of fellow teenagers, grappling with questions too big or too fraught for school; into a relationship with carefully chosen adult mentors, fellow congregants willing to share their authentic experiences of faith and doubt; and into the broader life of a church that has no age requirement, grades, or application process, just an abiding belief in the God-given dignity of us all.
Being a child in New York City brings its own peculiar challenges—as, of course, does being a parent. Our confirmation classes aim to help our young adults to develop the sorts of spiritual resilience, tools, and resources that can sustain them through adolescence and beyond. Working with your children will be a profound privilege for me.
Please feel free to be in touch if you have any questions about the confirmation process. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to meet as a class for the first time on Sunday, October 14th. Classes will run from 9:30-10:20 on Sunday mornings, culminating in a confirmation service in the spring, the precise date of which will depend upon the schedule of our bishops.
In the meantime, I send my best wishes for a peaceful summer.
The Rev. Robert M. Pennoyer II
Catch up on the previous CFM emails below!
Part One: Acolyte Program
Part Two: Children’s Choirs
Part Three: Playgroups