A gathering of what I would call the “cream of the crop” Episcopal Christian educators gathered at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in early August. We represented the diversity of formational ministries in the church: lay & ordained, small church, large church, seminaries and other church-wide bodies. We gathered to explore what the future might be for faith formation in the Episcopal Church.
Getting together such a diverse group of folks, many who had never met each other was a daunting task for those of us who were on the planning team. But all who gathered were open to explore new possibilities, make new connections and learn from one another. Egos and agendas were left at the door (if there were any!)
We told stories about our passions and struggles as educators working in the Church.
We listed the needs that we experience and desire for ourselves as well as the greater Church.
And we discovered the many resources that do exist if we connect with one another and share across our disciplines.
We shared what we saw as trends occurring in the communities in which we serve. Some of the overarching themes included:
- An uncertainty about the future . . . what will this thing we call “church” look like 20-30 years from now?
- Churches seem to search for programs to solve their “problems” instead of dealing with the “big picture” of the importance of holistic lifelong formation and what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ.
- Navigating between the relationships of those who are called to ordained ministry and lay ministry in the church. There is a continuing sense of clericalism and lack of openness to lay professionals working in the church.
- There is a great loss of professional positions for lay (and clergy) in the church in the area of Christian formation.
- We talk about the importance of adult formation but spend the least amount of time and money actually doing anything about it – rhetoric vs. praxis.
- There is tension between leadership in the “emerging-type” church models and with those in traditional positions regarding how leaders should be “trained.”
What next? Strategies were developed for those who wished to go the next step. A report will be forthcoming this is the press release from Episcopal Divinity School.