Resilience. Empathy. Courage. Gratitude. These are all just a few descriptions of what I assume all parents (and grandparents) wish to instill in their children. I believe being part of a faithful, worshiping community is an avenue to supporting us in this endeavor, as it is a hard, if not impossible road to follow on one’s own. But not all families are connected to a faith community and certainly during this pandemic, we are now isolated from many of those personal face-to-face support systems.
COVID-19 has “simply” added to all the reasons why parents (and any adult) despair over the world that we will be leaving to our children: climate change, political division, civil unrest, and racial injustice. And many couples have chosen not to have children as they do not want to add another individual into a world with a fraught-filled future.
Then along comes Amelia Richardson Dress’ new publication, The Hopeful Family: Raising Children in Uncertain Times(Morehouse Publishing, 2021). Asked to be part of the “launch team” of the book I agreed, despite wondering if this was going to be another book about children and spiritual practices (as the early descriptions shared) to hold them up against the evils in this world. I was more than pleasantly surprised. From the moment I held the soft, smooth cover of the book in my hands and discovered the beautiful layout and interior design, The Hopeful Family evoked feelings of calm; each chapter begins with an unexpected quote about parenting (with hope) and a lovely blessing is offering in conclusion.
Just over a year ago, a group of lay formation leaders in the Episcopal Church left a three-day gathering that focused on what it means to be a lay professional in the Church and how such leaders are supported along the journey of faith. All with degrees in higher education (Master’s, DMins, and PhDs), we are employed by the Church on a variety of levels: local, diocesan, institutional, or church-wide in the areas of formation and ministry development. We shared stories of our calls to ministry; one thread that ran through each of our stories was that at one point we were encouraged or assumed to be interested in ordained ministry. Several of us had actually been in “the process” and discerned we were NOT called to ordained ministry. We had as many questions as we had stories.
I was excited to receive an invitation this summer to write a meditation for #AdventWord2020. If you’re not familiar with #AdventWord, it is a simple and interactive (if you want) way to engage in reflection on the Advent Sunday lectionary readings via one word a day throughout the Season of Advent. Today marks the first Sunday of Advent – a day we hear words from the prophet Isaiah and light one candle on the Advent wreath. We await, with expectation, for the birth of Christ – Emmanuel: God is with us. And in this “Year of the Pandemic,” Advent will be filled with more expectation perhaps than usual as we look for the light at the end of this long, long darkness we have been in since March.
Of all my files, book collections, workshop presentations, and webinars, the topic that far exceeds any other subject is that of confirmation – the preparation, the history, the resources, and the rite itself. I’ve written on it and testified about it at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention (too many times to count). A dream of mine has always been to have a single place to share all that I have gathered along with the ideas and suggestions of others from around the Episcopal Church.
Now it exists!With the formation of the Confirmation Collaborative in the spring of 2019 (read about our initial gathering and press release) one of our goals was to create such a site. Thanks to the generosity of the Baptized for Life project overseen by friend and colleague Lisa Kimball (the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and the James Maxwell Professor of Lifelong Christian Formation at Virginia Theological Seminary), there is now a “confirmation tab”with multiple pages jam-packed with resources, infographics, and best practices for “all things confirmation” in the Episcopal Church. It is only fitting that the topic of confirmation be tied to its roots in baptism on the web as well as in real life.
For me, Thanksgiving has been a time of story-sharing from one generation to the next. I recall long tables in the basement of my childhood home filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles, first/second/third cousins, and the random relative or friend who I could never figure out how they fit in the mix. There were often “unrelated” elderly people present who did not have a family to share the meal with. Kids were mixed in with the adults – there was no “children’s table” of isolation. Most of all I remember the laughter and the passing of casseroles, including the jello mold containing unknown substances (shout out to National Lampoon’s Family Christmas).