Category Archives: Worship

A Christian Educator’s Guide to Liturgical Planning

Liturgy is formation. We learn how to pray by praying. We learn Bible stories by hearing and reading them. We learn about community by worshiping together. We learn the traditions of the Church by being present as they are celebrated. We learn the rhythms of the Christian year by watching the “colors” change with the liturgical seasons and the prayers that set the tone of the season.

Soon we will begin a new (secular) year. We already began a new (sacred) year several weeks ago on the First Sunday of Advent. How do we help all ages live into sacred time instead of the secular patterns that we follow (and is forced upon us) in the culture in which we live?

We practice. We remember. We slow down. And perhaps we focus on what we do on Sundays when we are gathered for worship and education – forming ourselves into Christians who are of this world but strive for more.

Every week (toward the beginning) I look ahead to what the coming Sunday will bring. What lessons will I be hearing in church? What is the season and its themes? Are there ways to make them relevant to children, youth, and adults – each in an age appropriate way? Hopefully during preaching and the “education hour” there is time to put things in context. Hopefully there is a reason the lesson or story you are sharing in Church School is connected to the season or the Gospel. You don’t need to be using a lectionary-based curriculum (although that helps), but the biblical stories we share need to make a connection to where we are in God’s world (and “time”) today. And that takes planning. Continue reading A Christian Educator’s Guide to Liturgical Planning

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Liturgy as Formation

To be an Episcopalian is one way of being a Christian. And being an Episcopalian is rooted in an identity and heritage based in the Book of Common Prayer. It is a “manual” for Episcopal worship, and if one visits any Episcopal church for worship, one could expect to participate in a liturgy found in that red book in the pew –– whether it is a Eucharist, Morning Prayer, baptism, or funeral. Many still call this book the “new” prayer book, but it has been around since 1979 (and even earlier in a variety of trial texts).

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is very clear with regards to the purpose of education and formation. In fact, it’s purpose is directly prayed for every Sunday during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is found in all of the post-communion prayers, as well as the catechism section on ministry. It is found in the promises we make every time our worship includes a baptism. We pray, as we believe, the each baptized member –– no matter what age or stage –– it called to engage in an active ministry and mission, to be “sent out to do the work God has given us to do.” That calling is the purpose of education and formation. Continue reading Liturgy as Formation

A Child’s “Worship Bag”

IMG_0559This past Saturday I gave a workshop at the annual Spring Training event for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. My presentation involved sharing ideas of how we can make worship more formational for children as well as how we can help parents make faith conversations and practices part of every day life at home. It occurred to me as I was putting some materials together for a “show & tell” that my process (and examples) make a great example of how to do both.

Basically, I gathered up all the supplies that I would put together in a “quiet bag” that I might bring to church with me if I had a preschooler or 8-year-old sitting alongside me in the pew for an entire worship service. What if we made such bags available to children to pick up before they entered our worship spaces? What if some of these objects were put into a “home box” and given to families for their use in at home or in the car? Continue reading A Child’s “Worship Bag”

2015: Top Formation Trends & Articles

Paschal_Candle_Symbols_2015As 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

Are Prayers Enough?

enoughI’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?