Lent is just a week away, so hopefully your congregation has planned the programming and ordered the needed resources. But perhaps it came up on you too quickly or you are looking for a personal resource for devotion on your own.
I have just returned from the 19th Annual Forma Conference in Philadelphia, and it occurs to me that our Church can learn much from how this organization for Christian Formation leaders in The Episcopal Church has been behaving lately.
We’re always hearing about the decline in church membership, the “graying” of those in the pews, and younger generations who are choosing to stay away – preferring to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” These past few days in Philadelphia gave me time to reflect on what was different (and exciting) as I listened, watched, and rejoiced in what was going on all around me.
First, a little history. Most of my adult vocation has been in Christian education on a parish, diocesan, or church-wide level. I’ve seen decline in church attendance, alongside the budget cuts of formation positions (and education funding) on all church levels. I’ve been a Forma member almost since its inception (which began in 1997 as NAECED – the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors), joining when I was a part-time Church School Coordinator.
I’ve been to at least 15 NAECED/Forma conferences, with my first one in New Orleans in 2002. There were about 40 people present and all our sessions were together in a small hotel conference room. We were all women (with maybe two men), mostly lay folk, and most involved in children’s ministries. And we were aging – just like the church in general. We did not represent the diversity that exists in our communities. As years (and annual conferences) went by I was beginning to wonder if there was a future generation to follow in my footsteps, or if the vocation of Christian education was to go the way of the dodo bird (and maybe organized religion). Continue reading How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma→
However, she seems to be on a new journey with this book. Beginning with earth (dirt), air (sky), and water, she weaves an engaging story of connectedness ending in the revelation of the divine in the here and now. It is a love story about the earth, and as Phyllis Tickle reviewed, is “an anthem to the sacred unity of the physical and spiritual in the formation of human faith and in the maturation of the human soul.” For me, it is her story of getting reconnected to this planet, our island home, in sacramental and environmental ways.
Perhaps it was just me, but in reading her book (I’m not finished with it yet) and reading the scriptures appointed for today I seen some parallels. From Isaiah we hear the plight of the exiles, living in a dry, if not muddy, spiritually space. They feel separated from and abandoned by God. But they have not been forgotten: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” By being named, their fear should diminish and they should look forward to the one who will redeem them. God offers a protecting hand in fire and flood. God declares a covenantal love. From the north, south, east, and west God loves “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:5-6) Continue reading God’s Waters→
As 2015 comes to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see what articles I either shared or bookmarked for further reading and study that related to the changing landscape of Christian formation in the Church. In the past I have written about trends and the future, with my five-part series, Christian Formation in a Changing Church getting a lot of traction from readers. What have others been writing about this year that informs where our focus could (or should) be in 2016? Where does our attention need to be focused? Check out some of these articles:
A new ministry structure experiment at Olivet United Church of Christ in Lino Lakes, MN was shared by Faith Formation Director Amber Espinoza on Vibrant Faith. It involves ending classroom-based Christian education, toys in the atrium (aka Narthex in Episcopal circles), the integration of children in worship, and family retreats.
The Confirmation Project is a five-denomination study that has taken place over the past few years looking at best practices of confirmation preparation in our churches. Here is their latest webinar, in which Lisa Kimball (Virginia Seminary) and Terri Elton (Luther Seminary) share their insights from the study. Basically, Confirmation is just one of many important aspects of youth formation. It is an opportunity to bring young people along into a life long journey of faith. And it’s important that once confirmed, the relationships continue post-confirmation and the community continues to support them in faith. Continue reading 2015: Top Formation Trends & Articles→
I’ve prayed. I’ve preached. I’ve written (and called) to my state and national representatives. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve shared articles on social media (and have gotten flak from some as well as thumbs up from others). I’ve changed my profile picture. I’ve given workshops. I’ve even compiled a book of terrific essays with my suggested process of how individuals and groups can act for change (Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence). I’ve tried to engage others in conversation – not about rights, but about safety. I’ve really tried to act – what more can I do?
I don’t own a gun. I don’t hunt. I never have. I never will. When my children were growing up we were a “Gun Toy Free Zone.” I got flak for that, too, from other parents. The closest I’ve come to using a weapon is shooting an arrow at a target. Yes, I have used my hands and my voice as a weapon. And I’m not proud of that.
Many, including me, are saying “enough.” And many are saying “pray” – as in my prayers are for ….. (fill in the blank). Are the two connected? In this season of Advent, we await the coming of Emmanuel – God with us. But for many, Advent is the season to shop, filling our carts with more stuff – when we have enough while others in our cities and world don’t have enough. What does it mean to prepare a room in our heart for the love that is to come? It is hard when our news feed (no matter how or where we get it) is filled with vitriol, death, blood, fear, and the loss of innocence. Lives lost. Hope snuffed out. For some a promise and future that no longer will be. Continue reading Are Prayers Enough?→