Victor H. Morgan, the rector of St. Luke’s Church (EMC), in Blue Ridge, Georgia has undertaken a noble task: creating a confirmation preparation resource that is accessible, engaging, and faithful to Scripture and our prayer book tradition. This is a vitally important work, as the resources currently on the market nearly always fail to meet at least one (usually faithfulness to Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer) or more of these criteria.
Rev. Morgan’s offering is entitled A Faith of My Own: Preparing for Confirmation, and is marketed as “A workbook for young people aged 10 and up preparing to receive the rite of Confirmation as set forth in The Book of Common Prayer.” Unlike almost every other confirmation resource, A Faith of My Own gets high marks for faithfulness to Scripture and prayer book tradition. Using the catechism (from An English Prayer Book) as its guide, A Faith of My Own lays out what Confirmation is and why it is done. Attention is given to “Right Beginning,” baptism, godparents, and baptismal vows; “Right Belief,” as laid out in the Creeds; “Right Behaviour,” spelled out in the Ten Commandments; “Right Worship,” modeled in the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In maintaining this pattern from the catechism, Rev. Morgan is keeping with the ancient principles of catechism and the prayer book’s requirements that confirmands should be taught these things before being confirmed. The strongest aspect of this workbook is its faithfulness to Scripture and our prayer book tradition. This cannot be expressed strongly enough. By relying on the catechism as his guide for the workbook, Rev. Morgan stays true to Anglican theology as expressed by the English Reformers and the 1662 prayer book: sin, salvation, the Trinity, and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), are all covered, defined, and expressed in a way that is clear and faithful to Scripture and the prayer book tradition. Another compliment I want to give is that this workbook can be used by all types of parishes. While it remains faithful to the theology of the 1662, there is nothing to prevent it from being used in an Episcopal Church parish that uses the 1979 prayer book, a traditional parish that uses the 1928 prayer book, an Anglican Church in North America parish using the 2019 prayer book, or really by any English-speaking Anglican congregation in the world.
Unfortunately, while A Faith of My Own, gets high marks for faithfulness to Scripture and our prayer book tradition, it gets much lower marks for being accessible and engaging. A Faith of My Own is marketed as a workbook, and it obviously is that in places. There are blanks left to be completed in Bible verses, true or false quizzes, questions to investigate in the prayer book and in the confirmand’s home parish. Appendix II has tips for the instructor/catechist in leading the material. Rev. Morgan imagines this workbook being used in a confirmation class setting. He envisions that the instructor will give a “short overview of the topic for the day, trying to use illustrations from real life that will intersect with the students’ experiences.” He then suggests the instructor, following the overview, “divide the students into small groups and let them work on the material in the workbook together.” The challenge with this is that it lays the responsibility of bridging the gap between material and student heavily on the shoulders of the instructor. While Rev. Morgan tries to include some real-life examples and analogies, they are few and far between in the workbook.
The second challenge a catechist will have in teaching this material is that the chapters are not standardized in length or presentation of the content. Chapter 1 defines baptism and is almost all fill-in-the-blank workbook material and is three pages long. Chapter 2 is one page of text that exhorts the confirmand to familiarize themself with the catechism. On the other end of the spectrum, chapter 8 is ten pages long and covers the Lord’s Supper, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, Unction (though not as sacraments), Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer! Another inconsistency is that some chapters (helpfully) have hymns at the end to reinforce the material, but most others do not; some have helpful “questions for thought,” though most do not. A creative and resourceful instructor could present this material in a compelling fashion. An instructor without those qualities will struggle to do better than to be the adult in the room while kids fill in some blanks in a workbook.
Lastly, A Faith of My Own also suffers the ills of many other self-published books, in that the layout of the material seems to have been done on Microsoft Word. The formatting of the text is inconsistent and sloppy. Images are often of low-quality resolution or are of the cheesy clip art variety. The book is bound with a plastic comb in a way that makes it feel cheaply made and does not allow it to lay flat when opened on itself.
Despite its shortcomings in presentation, I want to reiterate the high marks A Faith of My Own gets for faithfulness to Scripture and our prayer book tradition. This is invaluable. My hope for this workbook is that it can be reworked with help from someone with experience designing curricula and a graphic designer who can lay out the book in a more coherent and attractive manner. The material deserves it, and if it got it, then A Faith of My Own could become the go-to confirmation resource for years to come.