Every three years The Episcopal Church gathers in what is known as General Convention to consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church ranging from liturgical revision to social justice initiatives, budgetary matters to theological discussions, and so much more. Some call it a grand family reunion that brings representatives (lay, clergy, and bishops) from all the 110 dioceses of The Episcopal Church together for ten days (more like two weeks). Officially, General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church; it is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. In July 2018, the 79th General Convention will be held in Austin, Texas hosted by the Diocese of Texas.
Leading up to this triennial meeting, various committees, commissions, agencies, boards, and task forces created by the 78th General Convention meet to study and propose legislation to be discussed and voted upon in Austin. While most Episcopalians are oblivious to the machinations of General Convention, the decisions that are made at this gathering has an impact on what can (and should) be happening in local congregations as each of us are members of this church body. For example, decisions that effect every church goers that was approved at previous conventions include: the use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the election of our current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the ordination of women, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in all aspects of church life, and full-communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Continue reading Looking Toward General Convention→
We all have gifts, graces, and talents given to us by God. As Christians, we are called to serve God and use these gifts, graces, and talents. Congregations would not be able to offer its programs or opportunities for ministry without volunteers. Leadership is often “tasked” with finding volunteers to serve a variety of roles, including that of teacher and mentor for children and youth. It’s not about recruiting warm bodies, it as about an invitation into ministry. Here are some tips and pointers to invite others to share their gifts through the ministries of teaching and learning in your congregation. It is a call to ministry.
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Matthew 9:37
vol·un·teer – n. one who chooses freely to do something vt. To offer or give of one’s own free will. vi. To offer to enter into service of one’s own free will.
Why do people volunteer?
They want to be needed
They want to help others and make a difference
They want to learn new skills or use skills they already have
They want to belong to a caring community and feel accepted as members
They seek self-esteem and affirmation
They want to grow in their faith and share their God-given gifts
The Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Mission Council, of which I am an elected member, held its annual “working day retreat” at Camp Washington, ECCT’s summer camp and conference center in January. Besides learning about one another more fully and getting newly elected members “on board” to our duties and responsibilities (we act as the governing body between diocesan conventions––like a parish Vestry or diocesan Executive Council), our gathering was to focus on what initiatives we desired our focus to be on in for the upcoming year.
I had been part of a small sub-group that had been exploring how we, as Mission Council members as well as all of ECCT, could be better equipped to be disciples in the post-Christian mission field. Part of our conversation has been to discern the differences (and similarities) of apostleship and discipleship. The two words are often used interchangeably, but in today’s world in which fewer individuals go to church each Sunday––if at all––each has taken on a new meaning. How we are called to be both apostle and disciple has been informed by these conversations, but also in two books that I happened to be bringing to publication from my editorial desk at the time. And both books are about how we tell our stories––our stories of family, stories of God, and stories of what we believe. Continue reading Talking About Our Faith→
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?
Liturgy is formation. We learn how to pray by praying. We learn Bible stories by hearing and reading them. We learn about community by worshiping together. We learn the traditions of the Church by being present as they are celebrated. We learn the rhythms of the Christian year by watching the “colors” change with the liturgical seasons and the prayers that set the tone of the season.
Soon we will begin a new (secular) year. We already began a new (sacred) year several weeks ago on the First Sunday of Advent. How do we help all ages live into sacred time instead of the secular patterns that we follow (and is forced upon us) in the culture in which we live?
We practice. We remember. We slow down. And perhaps we focus on what we do on Sundays when we are gathered for worship and education – forming ourselves into Christians who are of this world but strive for more.
Every week (toward the beginning) I look ahead to what the coming Sunday will bring. What lessons will I be hearing in church? What is the season and its themes? Are there ways to make them relevant to children, youth, and adults – each in an age appropriate way? Hopefully during preaching and the “education hour” there is time to put things in context. Hopefully there is a reason the lesson or story you are sharing in Church School is connected to the season or the Gospel. You don’t need to be using a lectionary-based curriculum (although that helps), but the biblical stories we share need to make a connection to where we are in God’s world (and “time”) today. And that takes planning. Continue reading A Christian Educator’s Guide to Liturgical Planning→