The Bishop of Durham Conducts a Deeply Joyful Confirmation

Confirmations – Sunday June 27th

On Sunday 27th June, St Mary’s Church, Gainford welcomed the family and friends of 5 candidates for Confirmation, the Bishop of Durham The Rt Revd Paul Butler and the combined congregations of St Andrew’s, Winston and St Mary’s, Gainford. The candidates were Joseph Robert Kirkup, William James Poole, Alexandra Grace Kirkup,
Finlay Matthew Kirkup, and Beth Amelia Poole. The 6th candidate Thomas (Tom) Charles George Deakin had to miss out, having been pinged to self-isolate. We look forward to celebrating Tom’s Baptism and Confirmation soon.

The full Church with social distancing and Covid-19 measures still required witnessed the Confirmation and joined the newly Confirmed at receiving Communion.

We wish them all the best in their continued life of faith and look forward to their active contribution to their church and community.

A little about Confirmation

Confirmation is a significant part of anyone’s faith journey and has it’s origins mentioned in Acts 8:14-17 – and is a deeply personal moment in any Christian’s life which marks their ability to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  St Mary’s Church was overjoyed to host the event, which was made more special as it marked the first Confirmation Service to resume in the Diocese after regular Life Event services were put on hold for the majority of 2020 and the early part of 2021.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)

The candidates had each arrived at the decision to pursue Confirmation a slightly different way, but all were keen to deepen their faith and both St Mary’s and St Andrew’s Christian communities had candidates put themselves forward to further explore and declare their faith in front of their communities – which were in strong attendance.

Our candidates put together a video of their Confirmation Journey talking about their faith, and their thoughts after the service.


All of the candidates together

Road to Confirmation

Words from Bishop Paul

I find it an extraordinary privilege and honour to confirm people; although I would say that it is not I who confirm but God by the Holy Spirit. When confirmation candidates affirm their faith and express their will to be confirmed I love the way that each has their own story of God at work in their lives. This is why I really like people to share their story, and reasons for being confirmed, with me beforehand. It is also very good for congregations to hear at least some of these testimonies within the service itself. Hearing from one another how we have discovered God’s love for us in Jesus is an encouragement to all. It can also be a challenge; reminding people of their own journey with Jesus, or challenging people to enter into that journey for themselves.

When it comes to the actual act of confirmation, I love the way that the words remind the person being confirmed that they are personally and individually loved and called by God: “Name, God has called you by name and made you His own.” Each one known and beloved of God. Then with the laying on of my hand I say, “Confirm O Lord your servant with your Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has been at work in the person long before this moment. We are brought into new life in Jesus by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who reveals Jesus to us; who shows us our need of forgiveness and how to change direction and go God’s way (repentance). It is the Spirit who adopts us into God’s family and guides us each step of the way, helping us to understand the Bible, to pray and to grow into being ever more like Jesus. So when I am confirming, together with the candidate and the whole congregation, we are praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit in a fresh and deeper way. We are asking the Spirit to help the person stay faithful and to grow ever more into the likeness of Jesus as part of God’s people (the church).

This is a very intimate moment. Sometimes candidates feel the presence of Jesus deeply. Some people do not ‘feel’ anything. But feelings are not the point here; what is happening is that God is at work meeting each person in their own way. I know people for whom this was a deep moment of healing (both physical and emotional). I know others who have sensed God’s call on their lives at that moment. I know others for whom they simply know that this is their time of saying ‘Yes, all of me Lord.’
This is actually in contrast with my own memory of my own confirmation which I found rather strange and I am sorry to say the bishop was very distant and austere. (Probably why I try to be different from that). I actually stopped church a few weeks later and only returned (to a very different church) a couple of years later. However now looking back of course I think God was at work in it – after all I have been following Jesus for a long time now, and have been ordained and now serve as a bishop. We do not always know or recognise what God is up to in our lives at the time!

What is important always is not to see confirmation as an end point but rather a new beginning. This is a point of fresh departure in the journey, the wonderful, challenging, demanding, rewarding, amazing journey of following Jesus as Christ and Lord.

+ Bishop Paul

Reverend Eileen and Bishop Paul both looking glad to return to performing Confirmation services after a long time with everything on ‘pause’.  St Mary’s hosted the first Confirmation in the Diocese of Durham following a lengthy pause due to Covid-19. 

A View from the Pew

Mark Samuelson – a member of St Andrew’s PCC – attended to support those from both parishes and kindly wrote about his experience of the occassion in an article >here<.

Written by Tom Deakin

Tom is Website editor and contributor. He has a background in analytics and management, alongside now working in the outdoors instruction sector as a Mountain Leader. A member of St Mary's community, he helps run Youth Ministry projects involving both St Mary's and St Andrew's.

August 10, 2021

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