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→
I’ve prayed. I’ve preached. I’ve written (and called) to my state and national representatives. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve shared articles on social media (and have gotten flak from some as well as thumbs up from others). I’ve changed my profile picture. I’ve given workshops. I’ve even compiled a book of terrific essays with my suggested process of how individuals and groups can act for change (Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence). I’ve tried to engage others in conversation – not about rights, but about safety. I’ve really tried to act – what more can I do?
I don’t own a gun. I don’t hunt. I never have. I never will. When my children were growing up we were a “Gun Toy Free Zone.” I got flak for that, too, from other parents. The closest I’ve come to using a weapon is shooting an arrow at a target. Yes, I have used my hands and my voice as a weapon. And I’m not proud of that.
Many, including me, are saying “enough.” And many are saying “pray” – as in my prayers are for ….. (fill in the blank). Are the two connected? In this season of Advent, we await the coming of Emmanuel – God with us. But for many, Advent is the season to shop, filling our carts with more stuff – when we have enough while others in our cities and world don’t have enough. What does it mean to prepare a room in our heart for the love that is to come? It is hard when our news feed (no matter how or where we get it) is filled with vitriol, death, blood, fear, and the loss of innocence. Lives lost. Hope snuffed out. For some a promise and future that no longer will be. Continue reading Are Prayers Enough?→
I love looking at people’s feet – in particular, their shoes. I suppose this has me looking down more than looking up, which is problematic in itself. I probably miss some interesting faces and exchanges as an observer of people. I’ve discovered that airport sitting as well as hotel lobbies and train platforms offer a variety of perspectives. I believe shoes tell a lot about who we are, who we yearn to be, or how we try to fit in and relay a persona.
The past few days I’ve been in Minneapolis attending Why Christian?, a conference organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. It was a conference featuring some of the most promising voices of women in the Church in the United States. Some of the names were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the women on the marquis were at the leading edge of what the Church could and should be all about. The publicity leading up to this event hinted at what a watershed moment this might be. The venue had to be changed when 1,000 people registered months ago, causing the planners to have to turn away folks. While not a conference “about” and “for” women, the majority of people who filled the pews, aisles, and balcony to SRO were women.
Which brings me back to shoes. I stayed at the Hyatt, about half a mile from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral where the event was held. It would seem that while Why Christian? was going on, another conference featuring women (as speakers and participants) was happening at the Hyatt. Waiting in line at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. found me in a queue of strappy stilettos, well-manicured fingers, and coiffed hair. But it was the shoes that captured my gaze – clicking across the slate lobby floor, gracefully climbing the steps to the conference room areas, waiting for a double-espresso latte or tall macchiato. Long legs and short legs, each moved with confidence, having learned that balancing act, or at least exhibiting the power of control in walking tall perched on 6″ heels. I was wearing my black Aerosole flats. Continue reading Voices and Shoes→
Note: Many of you have traveled the journey with my mother and I on Rows of Sharon through the past several years. She died on February 22, 2015 and what follows it the homily I gave at her Memorial Service. Given at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut on Sunday, March 15, 2015, it was based on some of the readings of the liturgy: 2 Corinthians 4:16––5:9 and John 14:1-6.
There was no question in my mind what lessons would be chosen for this service in which we remember Trinette. Whether we knew her as Trinette or Aunt Net, Grammy or Mom, I think we can each visualize some portion of her life within these readings.
Some context about the Gospel reading we just heard. Moments earlier Jesus had told the disciples that he was going away and that they could not go with him. This creates not only confusion in the disciples’ minds, but anxiety as well. What Jesus said first was not surprising. “Believe in God” – depend on God to see you through and trust God to care for you. But what he said next was powerfully new. “Believe also in me” – rely on me as you do on God; trust me to care for you. Jesus is asking the disciples to think of him in the same way they think of God. “I and the Father are one.” Continue reading Rooms Full of Love→