About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
Churches are scrambling to find creative ways to mark the events of Holy Week while we are unable to gather in person. Attending Holy Week services daily from Palm Sunday thru the Easter Vigil is something I have never missed, at least in my adult life. I’ve been wondering how to help folks connect to the deep readings our lectionary offers on these days, so I went back to look what I have posted on my other website, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Based on the book (3rd edition) that I edited and updated with Robyn Szoke, for many years I posted a weekly reflection based on the Sunday’s lectionary readings. All three years are now online, so the website simply sits there for folks to tap into.
So, I thought it might be helpful to link the posts from Holy Week for Year A here for easy access without having to use the website’s search engine. Hope these are helpful for any groups via Facebook Live or Zoom or simply for your own personal Bible study and reflection.
For many, earbuds are becoming an extension of our physical body. Whether we are on a Zoom call, exercising to music at the gym, or watching a video while traveling, technology offers us multiple ways to engage in learning as well as spiritual practices. I haven’t been an easy adopter to the practice of listening to podcasts or audio-books; as a visual learner my mind wanders when my eyes aren’t involved or hands aren’t doing something.
Since public entertainment arenas (sports, movies, theatre) are being curtailed and in-person worship services are being moved to online platforms, podcasts may be a new mode of engagement and learning for adults of several generations. Below are some that you may find helpful to add your personal spiritual practices for learning new things and strengthening your faith.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since (reportedly) 1,300 Episcopalians and friends met in Atlanta, Georgia for what was subversively called Episcopalooza or “General Convention with workshops, but no legislation.” The brainchild of Bill Campbell, former Executive Director of Forma: The Network for Christian Formation this conference brought together various cohorts within the Episcopal Church (and beyond) to explore formation, evangelism, preaching, leadership, mission, stewardship, and communications. A massive undertaking with a lot of behind the scenes work from many individuals, it was the Church at its best. Worship was extraordinary, workshops were inspiring and informative, creativity was abundant, and Jesus was proclaimed. Even the hotel staff got in on the action and “rooted for Jesus.”
It was too much to digest and while I got to see LOTS of friends and colleagues, I missed many opportunities to network or attend presentations because I couldn’t be at two (or three) places at once. Thankfully, many presentations were live-streamed via Forma’s Facebook page and many were recorded so that even those unable to be present could be fed by the experience. My take-aways and learnings:
It its 79th General Convention held in July 2018, the Episcopal Church passed 19 resolutions related to care of the environment and climate change. Many resolutions cite their strong theological basis in their first paragraph(s). A013 begins, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24), has been made in and through Christ (John 1) and we are placed in it as a garden planet (Genesis 2).” Similarly, A018 connects climate change to Christian mission and ethics: “Resolved, that climate change be recognized as a human-made threat to all God’s people, creatures and the entire created order, while particularly placing unjust and inequitable burdens and stresses on native peoples, those displaced by environmental change, poor communities and people of color.”
How are we to implement such resolutions in our churches and homes, let alone our national government? For one, the Episcopal Church has a government relations office that can help lobby for the care of creation. In our congregations, we can talk the time to study the issues, understand what we have the power to do and change, then plan a course of action. Below are resources that you may want to consider in your planning for the upcoming program year.