What is a Humanist or Civil Confirmation?

If you don’t want to be confirmed within a church, or if as a parent you know your son or daughter doesn’t want to go through the motions by being confirmed, there is an alternative: Humanist or civil confirmation.

A dad and good friend of mine asked me if I’d devise a Humanist or civil confirmation for his son. I was happy to do so. I met the parents and their son, I chatted about living a good life without religion and the values and behaviour of wise and conscientious human beings like Socrates and we created the ceremony together and on a later occasion we gathered in their home with close family and friends and held the civil confirmation ceremony.

It went well and they asked me to do the same for their second son. It too went well and I asked the parents to give me feedback and this is what they said:

Madhu, the mother of the young men, said:

Here’s my 2 cents: When I as an adult haven’t decided yet what religion means for me it seems unfair to expect that from my 12 year old. Two years ago we decided to give our eldest son the choice of having a coming of age ceremony instead and it was the best decision he had made. 

Together with Joe we were able to devise his own intimate ceremony which is based around the principles of the humanist beliefs in his own words, with our own family and in our own house. As Joe has children himself he was able to translate the humanist principles at such a level that our eldest son was able to explain to his friends at school and family why he choose this celebration instead of traditional confirmation.
It was such a huge success that our youngest son decided this year to have a humanist celebration too. Again, it was highly personal with his own chosen songs and poems chosen by family. Everybody agrees that the best part is that we all get the chance to write and say something nice about our son, brother, grandchild, godchild; even though it can get quite emotional. At their age everything is being validated by grades and sometimes we forget and should be able to say to them how great they are as a person and this ceremony is the perfect occasion.
Their dad, Evan, wrote:
Reuben, our son, attends the local Catholic (and only) primary school in the area. When Reuben brought home material from school relating to the upcoming Confirmation with his class, it put us in a difficult position. The literature asked Reuben to make a serious commitment to God and the Catholic faith. Furthermore, as his parents it asked us to aid, support and give religious guidance at home to prepare for this ceremony. Given that it was around the time of my own Confirmation that I last believed in God, I was not able to give that guidance. I also felt it asked a lot of a 6th class child to make such a commitment.

That said, we believe it is important that key moments should be marked in a person’s life. Reuben was growing up, preparing for secondary school, and growing into a young man in front of us. We also did not want Reuben to miss out on the “fun” aspects of such a day, the materialistic aspects sure, but also being made a fuss of and having his family around him for a special day.

Joe kindly offered to act as a celebrant in a non-religious “Coming-of-Age” ceremony. The day was special, emotional and invested with real meaning for Reuben and his family. It gave members of the family the opportunity to show Reuben how important he is to them. Joe gave us a wonderful family memory, one I hope will stay with Reuben more than a formulaic, traditional Confirmation. I’d recommend such a ceremony – and Joe as celebrant in particular – to any parent who questions whether a Catholic Confirmation is right for them and their children.

Evan Hughes