As much of the country is being blanketed with snow and ice, we are longing for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Lent has always meant spring is on its way, and Ash Wednesday is less than three weeks away, on March 5th.
It’s time to put those Lenten studies in order and plan what our personal disciplines will be this year. Every year I update a document that lists information about Lent and some intergenerational activities to kick off the season starting with Shrove Tuesday (pancakes!) and “Burying the Alleluia.” It includes a list of resources for children & families, adult studies, and resources for individual or group reflection. You’ll find it all by downloading Lent 2014: Year A.
This is what’s on my radar screen for my congregation (and myself):
- Lent Madness – I’ll be mounting the large “bracket” poster on a tripod in the narthex for everyone to follow. I’m hoping some confirmands will help keep it up to date.
- Downloading The Season of Lent 2014 app to my iPad and iPhone that features the words of spiritual director Mary C. Earle alongside the beauty of one of Roger Hutchison’s paintings. The app is not available yet, but I’ve had a sneak preview, and it’s beautiful. (We’re giving out the posters at church, too).
- Watching another “Big Class” from ChurchNext; this one “Making Sense of the Cross.” I’m trying to figure out a good date and time when I can facilitate a conversation at my church to watch and discuss this together.
What will you be engaged in personally and in your congregation this upcoming Lenten season?
Amy Frazier, an EfM mentor and Episcopalian in Roanoke, Virginia writes a wonderful reflection about bread (and wafers) and how we remember God . . .
As I tooled along I-81 south, various memories surfaced. Like many Episcopalians, I grew up Roman Catholic, and I once asked why we called the wafers “bread.” To my nine-year-old self, they weren’t “real bread,” like the bulkie rolls we got from the Jewish bakery. “Communion bread is made that way to remind us of the manna God gave the Israelites to eat in the desert,” Grammy Lou said. I remember thinking – God must have loved them a lot to give the Israelites so much manna, because it sure would take a lot of wafers to fill me up if I were hungry. And wafers might fill me up, but no way would they satisfy me like a bulkie roll and cream cheese!
Is that why we sometimes use wafers? To remind us that God gives to us abundantly, even during our desert times? To keep us longing for the real Bread of Life?
Read her whole article here: Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.
How are you bread to others, and how are we constantly re-remembering the gifts we are given by those we love – and God?
Many of you know that every 18-months or so I conduct a curriculum survey. I began the practice during my tenure as Children’s Ministries & Christian Education Coordinator in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut as a means to determine what curricula was being used in congregations in the diocese as well as learn what needs churches and their leadership had that I might be able to offer assistance. When I was called to a new position as Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing in 2007, I continued the practice, only offering it church-wide and across denominations.
Perhaps more than anything else, I’m known for the curriculum charts I produce every Spring that gives an overview of a growing list of curricular resources: their theology, publisher, content, format, cost, age-level, and more – all in a handy-dandy multi-page chart. Now my survey results are also looked at with interest. They aren’t scientific, and any true statistician would find all sorts of flaws in my process. But I believe over the years I can see trends. And I hear from real people with real joys, concerns, and questions.
About six months ago I was contacted by Christian Century (the only print magazine I now subscribe to). They were interested in an article about what types of curriculum are being used in mainline churches today. They were interested in what their editorial board were surmising was a greater interest in Godly Play. Would I be able to write a piece? Wow. What an honor.
So, many drafts and edits later, my article has appeared in the February 19, 2014 issue of The Christian Century. I knew it would be coming out soon, but didn’t quite know when. Until I got my bi-weekly e-mail of the issue via e-mail yesterday, listing all the articles. Volume 131, No. 4 is entitled, “Theologians in Residence.”
Read my article:
I didn’t choose the title, but perhaps it does speak to the issue facing our church today. I invite your to post your responses on the space offered on The Christian Centuries website / Facebook page and join in the conversation!
Epic = ep·ic / ˈepik/
noun: a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
adjective: of, relating to, or characteristic of an epic or epics; heroic or grand in scale or character; informal; particularly impressive or remarkable.
It began with my own epic adventure attempting to travel from my home in Connecticut to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. I was headed to the annual Tapestry conference of Forma, the association of Episcopal Christian formation leaders. What should have been a 50-minute flight, snowstorm “Janus” had me queuing at the taxi stand at the LGA Delta Shuttle terminal after all flights to DCA were cancelled for the day. A taxi to Penn Station with 3 other road warriors, followed by moving forward, backward, and forward again on Amtrak to Union Station in Washington, DC followed by a Metro adventure, and another cab ride that made me thankful I had stopped at an ATM brought me to my final destination twelve hours later.
I wasn’t the only conference participant who had an adventure getting to Alexandria. But once we all (170+ of us) arrived, we were in for a real ride. Keynote speakers Lisa Kimball, professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership and Director of the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary paired with Patricia Lyons, the JK-12 Director of Service Learning at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Episcopal) School in Alexandria led us on an “Epic Adventure of Faith.”
My take on their plenaries regarding the “Once and Future Church” via my Twitter feed (and some notes):
Sharon Ely Pearson @rowsofsharonp Jan 22
@kimball_lisa and Tricia Lyons keynote with sunglasses and dinging bells. C E leaders make sure there is a once and future church #forma14
- Who are we not including in the “game” of church? Are we still playing the old version of monopoly?
- Retweeted: S Williams-Duncan @SWilliamsDuncan Jan 22
Apple is willing to ask people “What will your verse be?” We should be asking this! #Forma14
- Sharon Ely Pearson @rowsofsharonp Jan 22
#Forma14 @kimball_lisa sharing insights from “Families & Faith” by Vern Bengtson. Need to check out this book.
- Good news of a declining religion is that the church is starting to pay attention to the importance of Christian formation
- If our “once” church is to reclaim our voice we need to embrace and proclaim our epic adventure of personal life wide formation
- If we don’t link lifelong with life wide, XF people will be lined up for Habitat for Humanity & the church will become a dog park
Sharon Ely Pearson @rowsofsharonp Jan 23
- Moving on the game board of life – fraught with anxiety trying to stay alive. Game or documentary? #Forma14
- Saving the Church is not an epic mission – it’s not what we are called to do. How do we stay clear of where the Spirit is moving?
- Hindrances to epic adventures: fear (wounds, decline, scarcity). Angels tell us ‘fear not’. Must choose paradigm of abundance.
- Our call is not to save the “structure” but to refocus on the epic journey of the kingdom.
- Reformation happened due to a failure of pastoral ministry-failure of inviting & creating in an epic way.
- Retweeted Kyle Matthew Oliver @kmoliver Jan 23
Jesus showed us the invitation to faith is not primarily moral. Don’t get pulled into making faith primarily about behavior.
- Amazing “breakfast entree” of epic proportions given to us by #TrishLyons
- Church leaders find ourselves as cruise directors instead of walking with others on their journeys. #forma14 @kimball_lisa
- Retweeted Mike Angell @angellmike Jan 23
@kimball_lisa at #forma14 “We shouldn’t be baptizing people who don’t know what they are going to do on the other side of the event.”
- We need to expect more of people, not less in joining us on the epic journey of Christ. We need to raise the bar.
- We find ourselves as cruise directors instead of walking with others on their journey
- EPIC – Experiential, Participatory, Imagistic, Connective. (Starbucks) (Worship) that transforms.
- We are not “teaching” people, we are inviting people to be formed as a people of God on a participatory journey not led by experts.
Sharon Ely Pearson @rowsofsharonp Jan 24
- Packed ballroom for the final plenary which will be epic w Lisa & Tricia
- Formation is about continuing the epic adventure of Jesus. How do we baptized our narratives with the Gospel?
- A small gesture can change a child: Caine’s Arcade - Imagination Foundation Cardboard Challenge
- Tricia & epic adventure of Harry Potter is our Christian narrative. We’ve got the ultimate epic adventure with Christ
- What is the dement or in your life? What sucks your joy?
- Patronus charm = prayer
- Retweeted Audrey O’Brien @episcoaudrey Jan 24
Dobby as ultimate disciple: what would it be like to be given your freedom but chose to give your life back in service?
- LeeAnn Watkins sharing the epic adventure of her church and community in MN.
A little too cryptic for you? See and hear what happened between my tweets at each of these links for the full story:
Key Resources offers a conference “wrap up” with a listing of all sorts of links and descriptions to what was going on at the conference. Forma Day 1: Epic adventure, life-long and life-wide and Forma Day 2: Partners in Adventure
Forma has posted videos for each plenary offered by Lisa & Tricia. View them on the Forma YouTube Channel. Definitely worth your time to watch each of them. And they might make for great Adult Forum viewing and discussion as well as a teacher’s or staff meeting.
Darkness of motion
searches for the ticket-free berth
amidst the fog and flashing red lights.
steam rising from a pulled cap
stare to the sandy concrete
The digital light from fingertips
startle to the call of frenzied movement,
only to end up pressed against a wooly
mass of flesh pushing its way into unwelcome space.
Compressed search for dignity,
attempting to occupy another space and time.
Until the moment of fresh air and freedom
into a teeming sea of humanity
with destinations in mind.
Body, not Spirit
Known, but not known.
Cessation of intake until the tossed cigarette is behind,
stench carried the opposite way
snatches of clear blue
piercing through the steel and glass
Absorbed by the glass
to a sky of florescent
fingers at the ready
as eyes peruse the screen,
the page, the day.
Wondering if the blue or fog will appear
before the darkness
on the journey back.