Last week I found myself with nothing to do for an hour whilst in a parish caravan. A clergy friend I was visiting had to lead a group, and so I sat at one end of the parish caravan whilst the group he was leading took place at the other end. Having nothing with me to read I spent an hour reading the Book of Common Prayer, as that was more or less all that was available. It was actually an hour well spent, as I don’t spend an hour reading the Book of Common Prayer (We’ll call it the BCP) very often.
One of the things I pondered during my hour reading the BCP was the ‘Catechism’. The Catechism is a series of basic beliefs that people had to learn before they were confirmed. There are various Catechisms as far as I understand things, but the one from the BCP is on this page on this jolly good site about the BCP.
The instructions given for use of the Catechism are thus:
The Curate of every Parish shall diligently upon Sundays and Holy-days, after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the Church instruct and examine so many Children of his Parish sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some Part of this Catechism.
And all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Dames, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Prentices (which have not learned their Catechism,) to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear, and be ordered by the Curate, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.
So soon as children are come to a competent age, and can say, in their Mother Tongue, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and also can answer to the other questions of this short Catechism; they shall be brought to the Bishop. And every one shall have a Godfather, or a Godmother, as a witness of their Confirmation.
And whensoever the Bishop shall give knowledge for Children to be brought unto him for their Confirmation, the Curate of every Parish shall either bring, or send in writing, with his hand subscribed thereunto, the names of all such persons within his Parish, as he shall think fit to be presented to the Bishop to be confirmed. And, if the Bishop approve of them, he shall confirm them in manner following.
What a good idea. Why don’t we do this sort of thing these days? Perhaps we do, I don’t know.
It does sound a bit tricky though. I probably wouldn’t be confirmed yet if such standards were insisted upon these days as my memory is flaky. I’d still be diligently going along upon Sundays and Holy-days after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer for instruction by the Curate.
Perhaps a more practical test would be better for those whose memories are not sound. Those who opted for the hands-on test would, on the day of the confirmation, have to demonstrate before the Bishop and the congregation that they could perform an ecclesiastical task. Updating a page on the church website, carrying a candle with due reverence or removing the cling film from a selection of ‘bring and share lunch’ items should do it. The congregation would ‘mark’ each task by cheering or booing. Successful candidates would be confirmed there and then, whilst the failures would have to go away and learn to do something else.
Of course some people are not good at exams, be they academic or practical. Perhaps those individuals should be made to complete some coursework over a period of time. Develop a portfolio demonstrating a range of core competencies.
To be honest I’m just making it up now and talking rubbish.
If you have any better ideas feel free to post them in writing, with your hand subscribed thereunto, in the comments.