About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
For many, earbuds are becoming an extension of our physical body. Whether we are on a Zoom call, exercising to music at the gym, or watching a video while traveling, technology offers us multiple ways to engage in learning as well as spiritual practices. I haven’t been an easy adopter to the practice of listening to podcasts or audio-books; as a visual learner my mind wanders when my eyes aren’t involved or hands aren’t doing something.
Since public entertainment arenas (sports, movies, theatre) are being curtailed and in-person worship services are being moved to online platforms, podcasts may be a new mode of engagement and learning for adults of several generations. Below are some that you may find helpful to add your personal spiritual practices for learning new things and strengthening your faith.
“Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Throughout scripture, time and time again the people of God are admonished not to live in fear. As the world enters a time that most generations alive have never experienced it is a time to be wise and follow the advice of the experts. Remember that we are all held by God and are called to reach out to neighbor in time of need.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18
Now is a time for prayer. Prayer for those who care for others and those who are vulnerable. Prayer for all in the medical field and those who seek to find solutions. Prayer that our leaders make wise decisions on behalf of all God’s people.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since (reportedly) 1,300 Episcopalians and friends met in Atlanta, Georgia for what was subversively called Episcopalooza or “General Convention with workshops, but no legislation.” The brainchild of Bill Campbell, former Executive Director of Forma: The Network for Christian Formation this conference brought together various cohorts within the Episcopal Church (and beyond) to explore formation, evangelism, preaching, leadership, mission, stewardship, and communications. A massive undertaking with a lot of behind the scenes work from many individuals, it was the Church at its best. Worship was extraordinary, workshops were inspiring and informative, creativity was abundant, and Jesus was proclaimed. Even the hotel staff got in on the action and “rooted for Jesus.”
It was too much to digest and while I got to see LOTS of friends and colleagues, I missed many opportunities to network or attend presentations because I couldn’t be at two (or three) places at once. Thankfully, many presentations were live-streamed via Forma’s Facebook page and many were recorded so that even those unable to be present could be fed by the experience. My take-aways and learnings:
As noted in a previous post about results of The Confirmation Project and the Confirmation Collaborative, curricular resources are not the key to a good confirmation “program.” However, many churches still depend on written materials, programs, and “lessons” to form the basis of their confirmation program with youth. When the press release of the Confirmation Collaborative came out, many got in touch with me about what new resources (aka curriculum) we were going to develop, including The Living Church. Somehow I feel that the whole point of the Collaborative was missed. Sadly, the Church automatically goes to default when formation and confirmation are discussed.
While the Living Church initially requested information from me about what new materials are in the works to be published, I was glad to see that their article did focus on the process in “Raising Confirmands in the Way They Should Go.” I think I would have appreciated the title “Raising Confirmands in the Way WE Should Go, but it takes awhile to move that needle. In the article, Lisa Kimball states:
“They don’t want the teacher in the front of the room lecturing about those things,” Kimball said. “They want to be learning pedagogically and be more engaged in participatory ways.”