A workshop I was to present in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in early March 2020 was moved to an online webinar using Zoom, of which we are all now so familiar with. Here is a diocese that has been very nimble in taking what would have been their day-long, in-person annual event for Christian formation practitioners called Better Together. They are now calling this “shelter-at-home continuing education,” in which I gave my keynote as a Zoom webinar-styled presentation in the first installment, called Faith Formation in a Changing Church.
I recently offered my two workshops, Children’s Presence in Worship: Full Participation or Brief Appearance and Texting God: The Spirituality of Youth via Zoom meeting for more interaction. Valerie Reinke, Canon Missioner for Faith Formation: 35 & Under and her team recorded them and are making them available for others to view.
Here is the recording of the presentation on children in worship. Adapting my presentation, I also spoke on how we can include children in our “zoom” and Facebook Live worship during this time of staying home and staying safe. In these times of declining church membership, mainline congregations put considerable weight on the presence of children as an indicator of congregational vitality. But how do we truly welcome children in the life of our churches, especially in worship? If children are full members of the Body of Christ through their baptism, shouldn’t they be full participants in Word and Sacrament? We explored how worship can truly be a multi-generational experience for the whole church.
I’m grateful to Suzanne from St. Andrew’s in Aberdeen, Washington who shared some feedback to Valerie, who then shared it with me: “Thank you for developing these meeting opportunities for those of us who care so much about the faith formation of our children and youth. I find the ideas presented so valuable, especially to those of us from small parishes who don’t always find others who have the same passion to share with. I latched onto Sharon’s parting comment… I may be paraphrasing…we (those of us working with our children) are the curriculum. She put into words what I have been struggling with for several months. I am a retired educator and have been using Weaving God’s Promises just as the seed for our time together. I have always found that “curriculum” is too constraining and lessons have to reflect my style and the needs of my charges. Today’s Zoom gives me a much clearer vision of where our congregation can explore inclusion of children in worship.”
Here are the handouts that were distributed (via email) to registered participants: Engaging Children as in Worship and an example of a tri-fold flyer that can be adapted for your own local use to give to parents or put in the pew.
I’ll be posting my Texting God zoom presentation recording here as soon as it is available. Stay tuned!