This was a presentation given at the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) 2017 annual conference held recently in Washington, D.C.
How can congregational leadership bridge the gap that takes place between what happens on Sunday morning church and home (or school or work) the rest of the week? Even if one were to attend worship every Sunday of the year, that would account for less that 1% of waking hours – and we know the average worshipper is not in church every Sunday. Family life today is full of carpools, running around, juggling a multitude of activities (chosen and mandatory).
Many parents are searching for ways to nurture their children in the life of the Christian faith. They come with honest questions and look to the church for answers. Others, realizing their lack of biblical and theological background, turn their children over to the church and the church school – because they want it done right, by the experts. We cannot assume that parents know what to do with their children in regard to nurturing them in a life of faith. They may bring them to us to be baptized – but what happens after that? And more and more, that is nothing. We are lucky they return for times other than their child to participate in the Christmas pageant, show up in their Sunday best on Easter, or reappear when confirmation age rolls around. Continue reading Creating Burning Bushes: Supporting Faith at Home→
This past Wednesday evening, I, like many of you, was in front of the television for the seventh game of the World Series. Besides being a stressful, nail biter of a game, what remains with me was what happened before the game even started. The Cleveland Orchestra’s String Section performed the national anthem with the crowd singing in unison. One voice comprised of thousands. It made me feel how baseball unites, bringing opposing teams together for the good of the sport. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that sense of pride in humanity.
Not much has been uniting in America these past weeks and months. The vitriol, fact-checking for truth or lies, fear mongering, and incivility of this election season has led to a significant amount of stress in over half of the adults in this country. I know I feel it. I want Tuesday to be over with; but I’m afraid that no matter what, Wednesday will not be any better.
I will be working the polls on Tuesday in Norwalk and this past week attended training as required by the State of Connecticut. We were told that security will be stepped up more than ever; the 75-foot rule will be monitored closely; intimidation can be expected. And we can expect to have lines from 6AM to beyond 8PM. We were told to prepare for lack of civility and a very long day. I don’t remember hearing these messages in over forty years of exercising my right to vote.
Christian formation is the lifelong process of growing in relationship with God, self, others and all creation. In this process, we are transformed into the people God wants us to be. The Episcopal Church has gracefully articulated how we answer God’s call in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation.
A new resource, now available to congregations who desire to help adults grow in their discipleship as follows of Jesus Christ is now available. The Pilgrim Programis a course for those new to Christianity, seekers, inquirers, and any adult who wishes to return to the basics for the first, second, or twentieth time. Broken into two stages: Followand Grow, each stage has four units of six sessions each (with the exception that Session One: Turning to Christ, has seven sessions). They would easily fit a Sunday morning adult class of 45 minutes or an evening program, possibly preceded by a light meal. Follow is designed to be led by a facilitator who has been an active member of a faith community for some time, while Grow’s leadership can be shared amongst the group. Continue reading Pilgrim: A Course for the Journey→
I have just returned from the 19th Annual Forma Conference in Philadelphia, and it occurs to me that our Church can learn much from how this organization for Christian Formation leaders in The Episcopal Church has been behaving lately.
We’re always hearing about the decline in church membership, the “graying” of those in the pews, and younger generations who are choosing to stay away – preferring to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” These past few days in Philadelphia gave me time to reflect on what was different (and exciting) as I listened, watched, and rejoiced in what was going on all around me.
First, a little history. Most of my adult vocation has been in Christian education on a parish, diocesan, or church-wide level. I’ve seen decline in church attendance, alongside the budget cuts of formation positions (and education funding) on all church levels. I’ve been a Forma member almost since its inception (which began in 1997 as NAECED – the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors), joining when I was a part-time Church School Coordinator.
I’ve been to at least 15 NAECED/Forma conferences, with my first one in New Orleans in 2002. There were about 40 people present and all our sessions were together in a small hotel conference room. We were all women (with maybe two men), mostly lay folk, and most involved in children’s ministries. And we were aging – just like the church in general. We did not represent the diversity that exists in our communities. As years (and annual conferences) went by I was beginning to wonder if there was a future generation to follow in my footsteps, or if the vocation of Christian education was to go the way of the dodo bird (and maybe organized religion). Continue reading How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma→
As 2015 comes to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see what articles I either shared or bookmarked for further reading and study that related to the changing landscape of Christian formation in the Church. In the past I have written about trends and the future, with my five-part series, Christian Formation in a Changing Church getting a lot of traction from readers. What have others been writing about this year that informs where our focus could (or should) be in 2016? Where does our attention need to be focused? Check out some of these articles:
A new ministry structure experiment at Olivet United Church of Christ in Lino Lakes, MN was shared by Faith Formation Director Amber Espinoza on Vibrant Faith. It involves ending classroom-based Christian education, toys in the atrium (aka Narthex in Episcopal circles), the integration of children in worship, and family retreats.
The Confirmation Project is a five-denomination study that has taken place over the past few years looking at best practices of confirmation preparation in our churches. Here is their latest webinar, in which Lisa Kimball (Virginia Seminary) and Terri Elton (Luther Seminary) share their insights from the study. Basically, Confirmation is just one of many important aspects of youth formation. It is an opportunity to bring young people along into a life long journey of faith. And it’s important that once confirmed, the relationships continue post-confirmation and the community continues to support them in faith. Continue reading 2015: Top Formation Trends & Articles→