It was fitting that I received a copy of Absalom Jones: America’s First Black Priestwritten by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones in early February, Black History Month. Exactly two years ago I wrote about Absalom Jones, sharing resources for learning about this man of faith, courage, and commitment. So it is fitting that I share a new resource for children (ages 8-12) close to his Feast Day – February 13 – that explores the history of this man and the context in which he lived and came from. The people of God are all people – all colors, all races, all languages – from all over the world.
One is immediately caught by the visually stunning cover of this book that shows what Absalom might have looked like today, surrounded by other people of faith who were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, including the first Black woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, Barbara C. Harris, who died in March 2020. Illustrator, Christopher Michael Taylor describes his image on the cover as “a modernized and unique interpretation,” while each black and white artwork that begins each of the eight 3-page chapters can be described as “comic book realism.” They pop next to the text, engaging the reader in wanting to read on to see how a man, born a slave in 1746, earned his freedom and was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.
I have always believed that the Season of Easter is a time to plan and look to the future in all manner of things. Depending on where you live in the northern hemisphere, it is a time to think about planting: mapping out your garden, starting seeds, or actually putting plants into the ground. For me it was also about evaluating the past academic year in secular education or the Church.
I’ve written and shared plenty of ideas on how to evaluate your programming and curriculum. I’ll soon be posting new curriculum charts for children, youth, and adult formation. And by popular demand, I offer the Christian Formation Planning Calendar for 2020-2021 (Pentecost 2020 thru August 2021) in two formats for you to adapt to your own context and needs.
Column 2: Sunday Readings appointed for the day (following the Episcopal version of the Revised Common Lectionary). This is not the same as the ’79 BCP lectionary or the standard RCL. Episcopalians like to tweak and amend! Track 1 and Track 2 are offered when applicable.
Old Testament / Hebrew Scripture reading
Psalm or Canticle
New Testament reading
Column 3: Observances
These can be civic (governmental holidays) or religious (Christian mid-week observances)
Space to fill in your own local practice
Column 4: Church Events
For you to fill in with your church’s events or notes for the day
Column 5: Notes
Space for your notations
Don’t forget to plug-in your teacher trainings and workshops, conference opportunities, seasonal projects for Advent and Lent, pageant and play rehearsals, mission trips, VBS, recognitions and presentations, school vacations and holidays, and social activities. As requested, you can download a pdf version or a Word version.
Stay tuned in the coming days for the updated curriculum charts. A lot has changed in the past year with numerous new resources and a few that have been discontinued. Certainly our lens may have changed a bit in what we choose to use and adapt with new questions to ask: How can I use this resource if/when we cannot meet face-to-face and in person on Sunday (or any other time)? How is this resource adaptable for use at home and online?
For many of us, it’s been over a year since we’ve been in our church buildings for any purpose. No indoor gatherings have moved meetings, coffee hours, formation opportunities, and even worship -have all occurred digitally. The pandemic has kept us apart from one another physically in so many ways, especially those of us who live in colder climes who don’t have the space or weather to meet outdoors for worship. As we look to the warmth of spring, more of us armed with our vaccinations and our local map turning from red to orange (will we every see yellow or green?) will be coming out of our hibernation to rise and shine. Easter will take on new meaning; a renewed life in meeting in-person that will be a different/new normal.
Resilience. Empathy. Courage. Gratitude. These are all just a few descriptions of what I assume all parents (and grandparents) wish to instill in their children. I believe being part of a faithful, worshiping community is an avenue to supporting us in this endeavor, as it is a hard, if not impossible road to follow on one’s own. But not all families are connected to a faith community and certainly during this pandemic, we are now isolated from many of those personal face-to-face support systems.
COVID-19 has “simply” added to all the reasons why parents (and any adult) despair over the world that we will be leaving to our children: climate change, political division, civil unrest, and racial injustice. And many couples have chosen not to have children as they do not want to add another individual into a world with a fraught-filled future.
Then along comes Amelia Richardson Dress’ new publication, The Hopeful Family: Raising Children in Uncertain Times(Morehouse Publishing, 2021). Asked to be part of the “launch team” of the book I agreed, despite wondering if this was going to be another book about children and spiritual practices (as the early descriptions shared) to hold them up against the evils in this world. I was more than pleasantly surprised. From the moment I held the soft, smooth cover of the book in my hands and discovered the beautiful layout and interior design, The Hopeful Family evoked feelings of calm; each chapter begins with an unexpected quote about parenting (with hope) and a lovely blessing is offering in conclusion.
Just over a year ago, a group of lay formation leaders in the Episcopal Church left a three-day gathering that focused on what it means to be a lay professional in the Church and how such leaders are supported along the journey of faith. All with degrees in higher education (Master’s, DMins, and PhDs), we are employed by the Church on a variety of levels: local, diocesan, institutional, or church-wide in the areas of formation and ministry development. We shared stories of our calls to ministry; one thread that ran through each of our stories was that at one point we were encouraged or assumed to be interested in ordained ministry. Several of us had actually been in “the process” and discerned we were NOT called to ordained ministry. We had as many questions as we had stories.