A recent article by Michael Sullivan was posted on Episcopal Cafe’s Daily Episcopalian. He recently was a speaker at Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina where he gave an address he titles, “Ten Marks of Vibrant Parishes.” Each of the ten points are statements of true wisdom. One in particular, “Wisdom bearers” speaks to how we should be practicing and modeling Christian formation in our congregations today:
6. Wisdom bearers
Our societal shift in communication is actually a shift in worldview; how we understand and gather information in and about the world is rapidly changing. This new model is based almost solely in information rather than wisdom and the formation that attends it.
Every once and a while a parent, well-intentioned, comes up and asks me why our children aren’t learning more about the sacraments or being instructed in a particular theological concept. When the child is close at hand, I usually bend down and just ask, “Claire, can you tell me about communion?” And then, a few minutes later after the child has described the paten, chalice, corporal, colors of the year, words of institution, and a couple of other things, I stand back up and thank the child for the lesson. Because the child learned through an experiential wisdom based curriculum, the parent assumed “information” was not being taught didactically.
Information is not the key to religious formation. As we all become wiki-informers, we need the deeper discernment and wisdom of the Church through the ages, the theology and praxis of our common life. Throughout our history, we were the ones establishing centers for learning. We too often forget that the entire university system was monastic in origin; just think of Oxford and Cambridge. Our current age, despite our connectivity, is quickly becoming illiterate from information without wisdom. We have substituted opinion based on shallow information and emotion for time-tested wisdom based upon formation, education, and the careful discernment of God’s movement among us.
If we are to thrive, we must reclaim our role as wisdom bearers, seeking more formation from our members and constituent bodies rather than less. We need internalized wisdom, not external information.
Check out his other 9 “Marks” – how does your congregation measure up?