Category Archives: Discernment

Talking About Our Faith

“Knowing Jesus in a New Way” Photo by Karin Hamilton, Canon for Mission Communication & Media, Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Used with permission.

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


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. Continue reading A Back to Basics Q & A

Jacob’s Ladder

As a child I recall singing “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” in Sunday School. It was a story that I remember reading in my own Bible, trying to imagine how someone could sleep while their head rested on a rock – no wonder they had wild dreams!

In listening to the reading of Genesis 28:10-19a this morning at Eucharist,  I was struck by the importance of place in which Jacob encountered God. And this wasn’t going to be the last place God interrupted Jacob’s sleep (in the coming weeks we’ll hear more about Jacob, including his wrestling with an angel during another fitful night without sleep). Jacob has many miles to go before he can truly sleep (taking liberties with Robert Frost).

But what about place? In the stories of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, each time they have an encounter with God, they mark each place with an altar of stones. Jacob does this same action, using his stone pillow as base for the altar. In all of the travels of God’s people in our Hebrew Scriptures, so many “mark the place” where they encounter God. Perhaps as a way to acknowledge the encounter with something tangible besides a memory, or perhaps as a landmark for whomever may come that way to know that something special happened there. So special that someone needed to “mark” it. Continue reading Jacob’s Ladder

A Burning Question: What Resources Do You Use?

Burning QuestionsAs I have in the past, I am currently conducting a Curriculum Survey to learn what types of published curricular and program resources are currently being used with children, youth, and/or adults in congregations. It is also an opportunity for those who take the survey to share what their concerns and needs are for the future of Christian education. New for this survey are simple question about the education, remuneration, and ministry of individuals in our congregations. The survey will only take about five minutes and will close on June 10, 2016.  Later this summer I will share the results.

Please take the survey HERE.

For those interested in the past three surveys I conducted, the links to the reports are as follows: Continue reading A Burning Question: What Resources Do You Use?

Discerning a Way Forward

empty church pewsThere has been an uptick of inquiries in my inbox as well as voice mail, all essentially about the same question: “Can you help us figure out what to do with our (fill in the blank: children, youth, adult, formation, education, Church School) ministries program?” The difficulty in responding is that I don’t have an answer. Nothing that is a quick fix. Nothing that hiring a children’s minister, youth director, or Director of Christian Formation can solve (at least not on their own). It can only be addressed through community discernment – lay and clergy leaders with parents especially – working together.

Here’s an example of some of the statements raised, after the initial question:

  • Children aren’t coming to Church School.
  • Parents are disengaged with talking about faith at home and don’t support their attendance in class (or worship).
  • Our teachers don’t like the curriculum we are using (read between the lines . . . What curriculum can you recommend that volunteers like that is easy?)
  • Youth are bored.
  • We keep reading about putting things online – but who has the time to figure that out?

Continue reading Discerning a Way Forward