Category Archives: Resources

Blessed to Bless

For those looking for a youth (middle school or high school) resource that would be adaptable for “distance learning” for the coming program year, Blessed to Bless: An Introduction to the Bible by Tim Sean Youmans (Church Publishing, 2020) may be an answer. Paired with watching videos from The Bible Project, this 300+ page book offers enough content for 86 sessions, broken down into four sections of two units each. BVC (Bible Vocabulary Concepts) are scattered throughout, helping to build up competency and biblical literacy that was once part of a common core education. Learn the origins of phrases such as “the patience of Job,” “Am I my brothers keeper?” and having a “Damascus Road experience.” Understand how scripture can be read literally, symbolically, or a mixture of both.

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. 
    I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.” ––Genesis 12:1-3

Each chapter begins with a reading assignment from the Bible, followed by Tim Sean’s commentary and a few questions to consider and/or discuss. If you read two chapters of Blessed to Bless alongside your Bible, you will complete this survey of the Bible in about one year’s time. It’s written at an eighth-grade level and was inspired by Tim Sean’s students at Casady (Episcopal) School in Oklahoma City who are between ten- and fifteen-years old.

Tim Sean offers the following:

If you are a Christian and want a basic introduction to the Bible, this book is for you. If you are not religious but you want to have a sense of what the Bible contains and what it means to Christians, this book is also for you. It can be read together as parent and child; it can be sues with a group of parents reading the Bible together with their children, and it can be used for a Sunday school class for teens or adults. It’s for all types of beginners as well as those who want a refresher of the scope of our salvation story.

I can see young people being mailed a copy of the book along with a Common English Bible, which is the translation used in the text. Assignments to read a portion of scripture and a chapter in the book followed by a Zoom-session to watch a video clip together followed by discussion could be a feasible model during these times of social distancing. Most likely formation classes will not resume “in person” across the U.S. this September as churches will be focused on making worship in person a priority first.

Christine Hides of Bless Each One offers the following comment on Blessed to Bless:

Just as a cry for justice arose in our nation and religious leaders encouraged us to turn to scripture, Blessed to Bless: #AnIntroductiontotheBible by Tim Sean Youmans appeared as a surprise in my mailbox. From time to time Church Publishing sends me preview copies of books to review. This one receives my recommendation for two reasons. First, I am regularly asked for resources to help make sense of the Bible, especially the Old Testament; this book offers a wide and deep guide to approaching sacred texts. The two page chapters are an excellent accompaniment for those who wish to read the text critically and constructively. Additionally, the author has a unique perspective, as an Episcopal priest who grew up in the evangelical tradition. He pitches a large and theologically sound tent that “cultivates the best of sacramental ritualistic Christianity with the heartfelt spirituality of the evangelical tradition.”

Header photo by James Coleman on Unsplash. “Jesus blessing” photo by Mauro Shared Pictures on Unsplash.

An Invitation to Transformation

In late 1999, the Office of Children’s Ministries of the Episcopal Church developed a process (Educational Inquiry) to help congregations fully live into lifelong Christian formation that included the voice of children. Built upon Called to Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Guide for the Episcopal Church (Un Llamado a Ensenar y Aprender) and Discovering Called to Teach and Learn (Descubriendo Uno Llamado) (by Joseph Russell) published in 1994, it involves a method of “educational inquiry” based on Appreciative Inquiry alongside the Children’s Charter of the Church and Authority of All Generations.

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The Authority of Generations

In August of 1998, a resource developed by the Rev. Ernesto Medina (then in the Diocese of Los Angeles and now retired in the Diocese of Nebraska) made its debut on the church-wide level. Entitled The Authority of Generations, this process became the foundation for the National Episcopal Children’s Ministries Conference held at Camp Allen (Diocese of Texas) in September 1998. Hundreds came from across the Episcopal Church to further explore a Children’s Charter for the Church and how to implement it on the congregational and diocesan level. Each morning, small groups of 8-10 people gathered across the main campus to pray, read scripture, sing, and share stories. All of this was grounded in hearing everyone’s voice on an equal level.

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A Children’s Charter for the Church

There was a time in the Episcopal Church (and Anglican Communion) that children could not receive communion unless they were confirmed (which at the time typically took place when one was twelve years old or older). That changed with the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that reaffirmed that through baptism, all are full members of the Church. Many churches still did not allow children to fully participate in the Eucharist. Children were still regulated to the “basement” and many adults, parents included, felt that children could not understand what Holy Communion was, so should not receive it. Many churches held “first communion” classes.

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Belovedness

As graduations occur in different ways across the United States (and beyond) during our worldwide pandemic, high schools and colleges have sought new ways to honor the students who have worked hard to achieve this milestone along their life journey. As car parades through town, single photo-ops occur next to lawn signs, and the blending of videos of speakers and diploma hand-offs are recorded to share with family and friends many are asking, “What can I give a graduate this year when we can’t be together?” I have a suggestion.

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