First Reformed Church Celebrates Confirmation of Walter Boyles

Submitted by Gary Bernhofer

On Sunday, May 18th, Walter Boyles was confirmed during our regular service. This celebration was the culmination of almost two years of meetings, discussions, curriculum planning and teaching. Sandy, Hartmut and members of the Christian Education Committee did not want to simply proclaim Walter confirmed because he reached a predetermined age. We all wanted this to be meaningful. Covering traditional Reformed theology with Walter was not possible. So what could be done?

A search for appropriate materials was not successful. We are a small congregation, but we are not short of members that know how to teach individuals with autism. With Hartmut’s input regarding essential religious topics, Sandy, Heather and her husband, Dan, went to work designing a way to teach Walter. They used principles developed at Eden Family Services, a school for autistic children. After many sessions, it was apparent that Walter had demonstrated sufficient knowledge to be confirmed.

Now, back to Sunday’s service: what a great celebration it was! Several of Walter’s classmates and their families were guests at the service. Certainly our Eden guests left our church with a clear understanding of how important Walter is to us. The play, presented by our FRC kids and written by Pastor Susan, was fun and featured Walter in a speaking role. The sermon delivered by Pastor Hartmut was excellent and touched on how much we have learned from Walter. The music, which was offered by Stef Beemsterboer, Ellen Hamilton, and our organist Viktoriya, was very moving. And, of course, the food after the service was excellent.

The Reformed tradition tells us that self-pride is not a good thing. We could not help, however, being proud of Walter and for his accomplishment, as well as being proud to be a member of a congregation that welcomes and loves Walter as much as we do.

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