The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, was in south Donegal, on Sunday afternoon, for a Service of Confirmation for young people from the Donegal, Killymard, Lough Eske and Laghey Group of Parishes.
For many months, churches in the Diocese of Raphoe had been prevented from proceeding with Confirmation Services because of Covid restrictions imposed by the Irish government. These were relaxed a week ago, precipitating a surge in services. The service, in Christ Church, Lough Eske, was the seventh of eight confirmations the Bishop has officiated at this week – all but one of them in County Donegal. He confirmed young people at three different services on Sunday alone, and was assisted at two of them by the Rector of the Donegal Group, Archdeacon David Huss.
The Bishop told the five confirmands at Sunday afternoon’s service that the bible reading included the most important question that anyone would ever be asked. “It’s a question for each one of us, and it’s a question that Jesus posed to the disciples as follows, and he simply said this: ‘Who do you say I am?’ [Mark 8 v 29]
“Did they think he was just a wise teacher, or a miracle worker, or a really nice man or whatever? ‘Who do you say that I am?’ And Peter – one of the followers – gives the answer. In Matthew’s version of the story he says, ‘You are Christ, the son of the living God.’ And that answer for us is actually the answer that our hearts and our lips need to give to Jesus: that he’s the son of God; that he loves us; that he came into the world for us; that he forgives us our sins. There’s no answer more important than him in our lives.”
In his sermon, Bishop Andrew explained to the young people what the rite of confirmation would require of them. “This afternoon, for our candidates, I have questions for you that I’ll ask of you, and those questions – whenever we distil them down – are not that far from the question that Jesus asked Peter: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ It’s the most important question in the world, and the answer is the most important answer in the world.”
Bishop Andrew told the confirmands and their families that the things that mattered in life, and the things that made a difference, were faith, love and hope. “It’s about faith in God, it’s about having the love of God in our hearts and it’s about knowing his hope in our lives in the world. Faith, hope and love. What changes us? It’s faith. What makes a difference in our lives? It’s love. And what will help us live in the future? It’s hope.”
This week’s Confirmation Services – in both jurisdictions – complied with local Covid regulations, and Church of Ireland guidance, requiring family groups to sit in ‘bubbles’, alternate pews to be cordoned off, and face coverings to be worn in church.