This past Sunday, the confirmands in my home parish shared their “faith statements” to parents, mentors, and Vestry members. With twenty-three confirmands (all about to graduate from 8th grade), it was an interesting “listening session” to hear how those who have spent a year in preparing for confirmation shared what they believed – and what they did not believe. All appropriate for this developmentally “searching” phase of adolescent life. Lots of “I’m not sure of all this Bible stuff.” “I feel closest to God when …” “My favorite experience has been …” “Even though I am still questioning …”
Then this piece came across my screen this week. Tim Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts and known as the creator of Lent Madness, posed a question on Twitter that one of his parish high school confirmands asked him: What difference does it all make?
Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.
Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.
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→
Christian formation is the lifelong process of growing in relationship with God, self, others and all creation. In this process, we are transformed into the people God wants us to be. The Episcopal Church has gracefully articulated how we answer God’s call in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation.
A new resource, now available to congregations who desire to help adults grow in their discipleship as follows of Jesus Christ is now available. The Pilgrim Programis a course for those new to Christianity, seekers, inquirers, and any adult who wishes to return to the basics for the first, second, or twentieth time. Broken into two stages: Followand Grow, each stage has four units of six sessions each (with the exception that Session One: Turning to Christ, has seven sessions). They would easily fit a Sunday morning adult class of 45 minutes or an evening program, possibly preceded by a light meal. Follow is designed to be led by a facilitator who has been an active member of a faith community for some time, while Grow’s leadership can be shared amongst the group. Continue reading Pilgrim: A Course for the Journey→
The following is an entry I contributed to “The Encyclopedia of Christian Education” ed. George Thomas Kurian and Mark A. Lamport (Rowman & LIttlefield) that was published in 2015. This three volume set is a comprehensive resource of 1,200 entries by 400 contributors that most likely can be found in a theological library or institution. I also wrote entries for “Fund for Theological Education,” “Denominational Publishing,” “Ecumenical Publishing,” and “Division of Christian Education for the National Council of Churches.” My hope is that this gives those of you who work in Christian educational ministries in the Episcopal Church some context into the roots and history of education from our denomination.
The Episcopal Churchis rooted in a history of preparing individuals for proclaiming the gospel locally and internationally since it was established in 1789 as an American denomination. The creation of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in 1835 had led to the establishment of a Board of Missions and then, later in the century, A General Board of Religious Education and a Joint Commission on Social Service. In 1919, the General Convention directed the Presiding Bishop and Council to administer and carry on the missionary, education, and social work of the Church, building upon the corporate model of business that much of America was following. Continue reading Christian Education in The Episcopal Church: A Brief History→