Building up the Next Generation

Father Pete Berg (front left) and Pam Keske (front right) help offer youth a sense of belonging at Church of the Cross. Photo by Skylar Zilka.

In February, Church of the Cross (MN) and Bishop Stewart confirmed 11 youth. Let’s take a closer look at a meaningful and creative formation process.
By Bonnie McMaken

It’s a Wednesday night in Church of the Cross’ “great hall.” A group of teenagers pause from busy lives of homework, sports, and phones to dig deeply into Scripture; ask good questions about faith; and deepen their commitment to Jesus and his Church.

These teens are in the Confirmation process, preparing themselves for the culmination of their journey—an opportunity to affirm their faith publicly during a liturgy of blessing and strengthening led by their bishop.

In February, Church of the Cross confirmed 11 boys and girls, grades 7 to 11. We asked their leaders and parents what made this process meaningful.

Why Confirmation?
Youth Pastor Father Peter Berg and co-leader, Pam Keske, are passionate about how Confirmation helps offer youth a sense of belonging.  “Youth need to know that they are wanted not just in youth group, but throughout the church, that the church is a place for them,” Fr. Pete says.

A dramatic Scripture reading during a teen-led Sunday morning service. Photo by Marty McAlpine.

Creating a safe place for young people to voice doubts and ask big, hard questions on their nine-month pilgrimage is a priority. “Young people need reassurance that—no matter how crazy the world gets—God has not buried his head in his hands thinking ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Pam says. “Instead God says, ‘I’ve got this world, I’ve got you, and I love you more than you can imagine.’”

Art As Formation

Fr. Pete and Pam have developed an excellent rhythm and curriculum for the Confirmation cohorts over the last three years. The meat of the content focuses on the story of redemption throughout Scripture and also includes the basic tenets of being an Anglican, spiritual disciplines, and the catechism.

To keep their approach creative, they enliven the topics through art. As an artist, Pam illustrates the main Bible story or theme each week to help students engage not only with their intellects, but with their eyes, imaginations, and memories.

“I find when youth are engaged and light bulbs are going on, we’re seeing the Lord do his work,” she says. “It may not be spectacular, but it is powerful. We are teaching them that God’s story is also their story.”

“The Exodus” & “The Crucifixion”. Pam Keske’s artwork brings Scripture to life for youth confirmands.

From the Parents

Sarah Hoffner, mother of two recent confirmands, Josiah and Lucy, speaks highly of the experience. “What struck me about the class was how intentional and thorough it was. Pete does an amazing job and has the kids really dig into Scripture themselves.”

A parent night to honor the kids was a highlight for mother Alyssa Tennison. Each parent could share how they had witnessed their child grow spiritually. Then “we encircled the youth and prayed for the Lord to seal the work He had done,” she says. “It was a sweet, spirit-filled time together.“

The Confirmation service itself was meaningful for Naomi Hamer, whose 15-year-old son Luke took part. She says, “Bishop Stewart’s sermon was good for all of us to hear, reminding us that God is with these kids through the storms and false doctrines of life, an anchor to which they can always hold fast.’”

Father Pete was asked, “What’s your biggest hope for this group of young people?” We love his response: “My hope is that they can be people of surprising joy no matter the darkness, that they can demonstrate the Lordship of Jesus in all they do, and so bring people to the light and love of Jesus.”

This article was featured in the March issue of our diocesan e-newsletter. Subscribe to receive good news from around the Upper Midwest Diocese here

Learn more about Confirmation: