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→
My children, now grown, attended public schools before heading off to college. However, my son did attend private school for four years as we sought to provide him the accelerated education he needed at the time. We were fortunate to have the resources to give him that experience for his fourth thru seventh grade years. Not all children have those choices. As parents, we volunteered in and outside the classroom (in our local public schools) knowing how our help supported the teachers and enhanced our own understanding of the issues facing children in our community. Continue reading All Our Children→
On Saturday, September 26, 2015 hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky. Sponsored by the Sowers of Justice Network, a coalition of churches and individuals working for social justice through nonviolent action, this day (and organization) is a model that many of our communities can learn from.
The purpose of the conference was to invite nonviolence as a way of life, to and with those most affected by gun violence, and to mobilize citizens of the community to action. The provided the information about the scale and scope of gun violence so individuals and organizations can better identify actions steps that any and all of us can take for the future. They connect networks to improve relationships, resolve, and readiness to ACT.
Last week I attended the annual Christian Formation Conference held at Kanuga, a conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina outside Hendersonville (near Asheville). The conference theme was Hope in the Midst of Crisis: From Tragedy to Healing through Forgiveness. Plenary sessions and workshops largely focused on how we address the issues of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing in a world that is often beset by tragedy on a national as well as personal level. From the events of 9/11 (World Trade Center) to 12/14 (Sandy Hook) to our cities today, stories were shared and processes for healing were shared.
I was invited to give a workshop based on a book that I compiled and edited, Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015) based on a conference of the same name held in Oklahoma City in April 2014. In preparing my workshop I hoped to broaden the conversation to discuss how many forms of violence (such as gun violence, inter-partner/domestic violence, bullying, and video-game addiction) are issues that need to be addressed and acted upon as imperative to our baptismal promises of “respecting the dignity of all human beings” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to turn the other cheek as well as speak out against injustice in our world.
While I was caught up short the two days before my presentation over lunch with some Christian educators who shared their opinions with me (as gun owners with licenses to carry concealed weapons), I knew I had to tell the truth (from my perspective) and focus the conversation on why and how we should be having such conversations in our churches. It is why I put the book together. And my angst following this lunch conversation showed me how much our church needs to engage in this conversation. It is not about being opposed to hunting, target shooting, and banning of all guns. It is about creating a world in which we can create safe places and promote the gospel of peace. Continue reading Discussing Violence in Church→