Confirmands infuse boat-building with renewed love for the church
September 2003

Sustaining the Christian faith is often like keeping a small boat afloat, so learned a group of 7th and 8th graders from two UCC churches in adjoining states.

Drawing on a pastor's boat-building expertise and the students' willingness to grow in their Christian faith, about 16 confirmation students from Connecticut and New York combined forces to construct four small flat-bottom boats known as "skiffs." Most importantly, they forged new friendships and gained a renewed appreciation for their life together as God's people.

The Rev. Dave Hammet, an experienced boat-builder and pastor of First Congregational UCC in New London, Conn., melded his two crafts for the benefit of the young people at his church and those at Union Chapel UCC at Fishers' Island, N.Y., served by the Rev. Rosemary Baue. Together, the two pastors led an unforgettable 9-month confirmation experience.

During twice-monthly meetings, which started last October, students gathered to learn more about the Christian faith, while simultaneously studying the art of boat-building. Their 16 sessions included: "Are We Cut Out for This?" - where students cut out the wooden pieces needed for their boats' construction, while talking about their embarking group journey toward confirmation; "Glues and Screws" - where the boats were pieced together and discussion centered on what holds God's people together; "Trim Work" - where they smoothed-out the boats' rough edges while examining the rough places in their own lives; and "Safety in Numbers" - where they compared the rudiments of boater safety with the caring of Christian community.

Louisa Shakkour, 81, a member of First Congregational UCC since 1952, says she stood proud on May 11, the day the boats were launched. Despite bursts of rain, she, along with other friends and family members of the confirmands, gathered to celebrate their achievement.

"I was delighted that our pastor was able to work in cooperation with another church to get the teenagers excited about building boats and reading the Bible," she says. "[Confirmation class] is usually approached as a burden, but is became a great thing. It was a joy to see what these young people had accomplished."

The students, who were confirmed in their respective congregations on June 8, are auctioning two of the skiffs - with proceeds benefiting the churches' mission work.


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