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.
Of all my files, book collections, workshop presentations, and webinars, the topic that far exceeds any other subject is that of confirmation – the preparation, the history, the resources, and the rite itself. I’ve written on it and testified about it at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention (too many times to count). A dream of mine has always been to have a single place to share all that I have gathered along with the ideas and suggestions of others from around the Episcopal Church.
Now it exists!With the formation of the Confirmation Collaborative in the spring of 2019 (read about our initial gathering and press release) one of our goals was to create such a site. Thanks to the generosity of the Baptized for Life project overseen by friend and colleague Lisa Kimball (the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and the James Maxwell Professor of Lifelong Christian Formation at Virginia Theological Seminary), there is now a “confirmation tab”with multiple pages jam-packed with resources, infographics, and best practices for “all things confirmation” in the Episcopal Church. It is only fitting that the topic of confirmation be tied to its roots in baptism on the web as well as in real life.
For a long time the Church has shared Bible stories with children that have included someone else’s moral or theological interpretation. In truth, the Bible has always been used to teach children right from wrong and the Golden Rule. In some part, this has lead to a generation of children (and adults) who are really moralistic therapeutic deists. Thankfully there are other opportunities to engage children IN the biblical story without adding our own interpretation or the “correct” answers as to why God did this or that. We the advent of Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we know the importance of open-ended questions, wondering, and allowing children to experience the stories of God with their heart before their head.
I never noticed those words in the Psalter. But how fitting they are during this time of isolation, grief, and sorrow as we continue to live (and die) during this “2020 Pandemic.” Years from now, how will be look back at this time? Will there be a name for this era in the history books?
One thing is for sure. We are each grieving in our own ways. For many, the loss has been visceral – a loved one no longer with us. For others, the grieving is not related to the pandemic as death always makes an appearance whether it is expected or unexpected. At the moment, gone are the times to hug family and friends, gather to share stories and remembrances, be present to hold hands in silence with unspoken words passing between us.