A Back to Basics Q & A

Recently I have been invited to give workshops in numerous locations on the basics; the core documents and key websites that I believe anyone involved in Christian formation with children, youth, or adults needs to know about. For January’s Forma Conference workshop, I put together a handout where they are all located in one place.

But for those who want the documents with more of an explanation – here goes. Think of it as a catechism for Episcopal educators: a question with some answers. These are the questions I am frequently asked, and how I respond:

Q. What is the curriculum authorized by the Episcopal Church?

A. The Episcopal Church does not have an authorized, published curriculum for any age. If anything, all of what is taught should be based on The Baptismal Covenant and An Outline of the Faith (also known as The Catechism found in the Book of Common Prayer. However, the Episcopal Church, via a General Convention resolution and Task Force assigned for its implementation, created a seminal text: Called To Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Vision and Guide for the Episcopal Church  (1994). Every church was sent one. Many churches put them on the bookshelf or in a closet and never opened its covers. You can download it here, as well as a companion piece written by The Rev. Canon Joe Russell, Discovering Called to Teach and Learn. The Spanish version is here.

Q. Are children members of the church? 

A. YES. By virtue of their baptism, children (and anyone) is a member of Christ’s Church. In the Episcopal Church, children who are baptized are full members, thus are able to receive Holy Communion. No instruction (like “First Communion”) is needed; however, it is helpful to offer opportunities to learn about the Eucharist (with parents – who often get more out of it than the kiddos do; children already “get it”.) The Children’s Charter for the Church was adopted at General Convention in 1997 and subsequently endorsed in many General Convention in many conventions and dioceses after that. We are called to ministry to children, minister for children, and minister with children.

Q. What is available to help us minister with youth and young adults?

A. While many years old, there are three books that were published in the 1990s from the “Ministries with Young People Cluster” of the Episcopal Church. The photos on the pages may be dated, but the content is still as relevant as it was when they first came out. Each is now available for download: Resource Book for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults in the Episcopal Church edited by Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook and Lois Sibley (1995), Handbook for Ministries with Young Adolescents in the Episcopal Church (1996), and Handbook for Ministries with Older Adolescents in the Episcopal Church (1996) both edited by Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook. And in 2015, Abi Moon and Pete Crow edited the Episcopal Youth in Mission Handbook. 

Q. What about adults? How should a congregation engage in adults in their spiritual formation?

A. Being a Christian is a lifelong journey. One does not stop learning when one graduates from school (at any level) or when one is “confirmed” in the faith (reaffirming the baptismal promises made for them at baptism). In 2009, General Convention ratified the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation that states that worship, study, prayer, and action are part of what it means to be an ever-growing disciple of Christ.

Q. How do we engage in liturgy as formation? How can we include all ages in the “work of the people” during worship?

A. Liturgy done well incorporates all ages. Ushers, choirs, acolytes, lectors, intercessors, ministers of communion, and the congregation as participants are just a few ways everyone learns during worship. Awake My Soul: A Liturgical Resource for use with Children and Adults edited by Ernesto Medina and Julia Huttar Bailey is a great example of the create ways the gospel, readings, and prayers of the people can engage all ages.

To support the above questions,  I assume you already have a Bible, Book of Common Prayer, Concordance, and Commentary on hand. There are the other resources I recommend be at arms reach at your desk. Together, they offer most of what you need to answer questions about administrative responsibilities, lectionary information, faith development, and worship ideas. Plus one for your own spiritual formation and discernment by Parker Palmer.

Lastly, there are those websites to bookmark so that they are just a click away. (Better yet, subscribe to receive their updates to go directly in your inbox.)

Download my listings Christian Ed Toolbox Workshop Handout if you want to hand them out to your Vestry, clergy, teacher, or youth leaders.

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