Category Archives: Resources

The Canary in the Coal Mine

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Hanging portion of Northwestern Glacier

Summer vacation took my husband and myself to Alaska this August. We flew to Anchorage and explored the Kenai Peninsula before a small plane took us across the Cook Inlet to Silver Salmon Creek River Lodge. It was breathtaking and a photographer’s dream. (Those who follow me on Facebook got to see our daily photos posted.)

This was my third trip to Alaska. The first was about twenty years ago for an Episcopal church-wide meeting of Christian education council of which I was part of in September. My second trip was a family cruise from Vancouver to Seward in August 2012. We saw a lot along the way and got to experience whales, bears, and eagles as well as what glaciers look like up close and personal.

IMG_3708As we flew into Anchorage a few weeks ago (close to the same time of year as previous trips), from my window seat I snapped photos as we passed over glaciers and mountain peaks. Stunning. But as we spent a few days in the Anchorage area I felt a difference. I had nothing to prove my intuition of the change, but it was unavoidable: the temps were in the 70-80s and snow was missing from many peaks. Yes, there were pockets of snow on the highest peaks, and glaciers could be seen nestling between them carving valleys for the future, but it was not as much snow as I remembered.

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The Proper Age for a Declaration of Faith

As noted in a previous post, I have been discovering “treasures” buried in my personal “archives” (aka boxes in a storage unit) of Christian education materials. This posting comes from the September-October 1963 issue of Religious Education, an official publication of the Religious Education Association (REA) which continues in existence today. The particular issue was edited by Randolph C. Miller, once the Professor of Christian Education at the Divinity School of Yale University. He was a prolific author on his own in his day. The particular issue that I have is Volume LVIII, Number 5 that has a focus on the title of this post.

Much of the tension (beyond age) of when confirmation should occur was often related to when one could participate in Holy Eucharist. For many Christians during this time period, confirmation was seen as a “completion” of baptism and confirmation followed catechetical instruction the preceded one’s “first communion.” Today, in the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions, baptism is full initiation into Christ’s Body. This “symposium” of articles struggles with when the best “age” is for one to be confirmed.

The introduction states:

Increasingly the question is being asked about the proper age for a declaration of faith. Whether it is confirmation, believer’s baptism, profession of faith, or Bar Mitzvah, the problem of intelligent loyalty lies behind these inquiries. Is a person capable of making such as decision at the age of seven, or ten, or twelve, or fifteen, or eighteen? The answer one makes to this question depends on his view of the rite, ordinance, or sacrament and its implications. It is also determined by his interpretation of the psychology of growing up. Cultural expectations may play a part as well.

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Benchmarks for Christians

From time to time the Forma Facebook Group has a post from someone (clergy, youth minister, Christian educator) who is asking if anyone has a “rubric” for what children should learn in each year of “Sunday School” (or whatever you call it). I don’t want to disparage anyone who asks such a question; we live in a culture of moving from one milestone to another and having to “prove ourselves” in our accomplishments – especially if you want to “move on” to the next step, phase, class, or even graduate with that degree. And often employment, promotion, or a raise is determined by our success. But honestly, this question drives me nuts.

For those of you who have known me for years, I get this sort of question all the time. What curriculum should we be using? What should we be teaching? What does the Church (in my case, the Episcopal Church) say we need to teach? To that I always answer, “There is no one answer. Tell me about your context.” What would Jesus say? “Love one another.”

I don’t want to rehash my mantra here. (I’m saving that for other subsequent posts in the coming weeks as I dig through old boxes of books, articles, and research papers written.) But I will share what I have learned in my 40 years of ministry – benchmarks don’t form disciples of Christ.

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Why Celebrate Mother’s Day?

“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.

The current holiday was created through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.

Intentionally or not, the support of retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86% of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending $180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers, and another $813 million on greeting cards.

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2019-2020 Formation Planning Calendar

Back by popular demand, just in time to start next year’s program planning, here (in easy-to-print and Word form) is my Christian Formation Planning Calendar for the coming academic year. It begins with the first Sunday of June 2019 and concludes at the end of August 2020.

You’ll find the “name” of the Sunday in the first column, followed by columns including the lectionary readings for the day, civic/ecumenical events (like Presidents’ Day), typical church events (like a day specifically set for baptisms), and blank spaces to write your own notes.

Now is the time to begin evaluating this past program year before planning next. And it’s a great time to start reviewing your curricula and program resources. Give plenty of time for all these important details in order to insure a smooth transition from one year to the next. And don’t forget to celebrate all your accomplishments!