Category Archives: Discernment

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

Voices and Shoes

hollywoodheelsI love looking at people’s feet – in particular, their shoes. I suppose this has me looking down more than looking up, which is problematic in itself. I probably miss some interesting faces and exchanges as an observer of people. I’ve discovered that airport sitting as well as hotel lobbies and train platforms offer a variety of perspectives. I believe shoes tell a lot about who we are, who we yearn to be, or how we try to fit in and relay a persona.

The past few days I’ve been in Minneapolis attending Why Christian?, a conference organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. It was a conference featuring some of the most promising voices of women in the Church in the United States. Some of the names were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the women on the marquis were at the leading edge of what the Church could and should be all about. The publicity leading up to this event hinted at what a watershed moment this might be. The venue had to be changed when 1,000 people registered months ago, causing the planners to have to turn away folks. While not a conference “about” and “for” women, the majority of people who filled the pews, aisles, and balcony to SRO were women.

Which brings me back to shoes. I stayed at the Hyatt, about half a mile from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral where the event was held. It would seem that while Why Christian? was going on, another conference featuring women (as speakers and participants) was happening at the Hyatt. Waiting in line at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. found me in a queue of strappy stilettos, well-manicured fingers, and coiffed hair. But it was the shoes that captured my gaze – clicking across the slate lobby floor, gracefully climbing the steps to the conference room areas, waiting for a double-espresso latte or tall macchiato. Long legs and short legs, each moved with confidence, having learned that balancing act, or at least exhibiting the power of control in walking tall perched on 6″ heels. I was wearing my black Aerosole flats. Continue reading Voices and Shoes