Confirmands & Faith

This past Sunday, the confirmands in my home parish shared their “faith statements” to parents, mentors, and Vestry members. With twenty-three confirmands (all about to graduate from 8th grade), it was an interesting “listening session” to hear how those who have spent a year in preparing for confirmation shared what they believed – and what they did not believe. All appropriate for this developmentally “searching” phase of adolescent life. Lots of “I’m not sure of all this Bible stuff.” “I feel closest to God when …” “My favorite experience has been …” “Even though I am still questioning …”

Then this piece came across my screen this week. Tim Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts and known as the creator of Lent Madness, posed a question on Twitter that one of his parish high school confirmands asked him: What difference does it all make?

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All Shall Be Well

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.

Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet (Rogier van der Weyden, 1399-1464)

Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.

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Why Celebrate Mother’s Day?

“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.

The current holiday was created through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.

Intentionally or not, the support of retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86% of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending $180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers, and another $813 million on greeting cards.

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2019-2020 Formation Planning Calendar

Back by popular demand, just in time to start next year’s program planning, here (in easy-to-print and Word form) is my Christian Formation Planning Calendar for the coming academic year. It begins with the first Sunday of June 2019 and concludes at the end of August 2020.

You’ll find the “name” of the Sunday in the first column, followed by columns including the lectionary readings for the day, civic/ecumenical events (like Presidents’ Day), typical church events (like a day specifically set for baptisms), and blank spaces to write your own notes.

Now is the time to begin evaluating this past program year before planning next. And it’s a great time to start reviewing your curricula and program resources. Give plenty of time for all these important details in order to insure a smooth transition from one year to the next. And don’t forget to celebrate all your accomplishments!

A National Day of Prayer – Make it for Peace

Today (Thursday, May 2), we celebrate the National Day of Prayer. Of course, every day should be a day of prayer, but how does this become a “national” day in a country that claims a separation of church and state?

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.

There are a number of organizations and individuals who feel the day has been politicized by many to promote an agenda as well as a particular religious viewpoint. This is easy to see, with its founders having ties to Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Focus on the Family. One such organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation offers their opinion and history of this day here. However, it would behoove all Christians (and perhaps all faith communities) to follow the Episcopal Peace Fellowship‘s call for Christians everywhere to be known by our love (the 2019 National Day of Prayer theme) and to be instruments of peace in a violent society. They write in their latest e-news:

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