Our Taizé services, held several times a year, have traditionally been attended by adults. For the service scheduled midway through Lent we wanted to make it more of an intergenerational event. How could we make Taizé more experiential while retaining its contemplative nature? How might we introduce Taizé to families with children? How could we tap into scripture with baptismal and Lenten themes paired with the music of Taizé? This and other questions led to our creation of a Taizé Intergenerational Liturgy held on the afternoon of the Third Sunday of Lent at my home parish, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut.
Our team (Marissa Rohrbach, rector; Fiona Smith Sutherland, music director; Becky Hudspeth, children’s and youth minister; and myself) created two other events this program year (The Way of Love and Advent) and wanted to build upon those. Then two of us saw a post on Building Faith by Charlotte Preslar entitled “Creating Prayer Bottles” that had been developed as a sensory prayer experience before Lent began. We knew we had found our experiential, contemplative missing element for our Taizé service.
In advance, we ordered our supplies and sorted all the “pieces” in little containers for easy use with little hands and less mess. We set up a simple focal point of tables of various sizes and heights, with chairs surrounding them on all sides with ample room to move between them all. Around the perimeter of the chairs were six 6-foot tables, while near the entrance the piano and small adult choir and an instrumentalist sat. Battery-powered candles (the ones that looked like they had flickering flames) were scattered on the focal tables and piano. A variety of icons were placed on the tables as well as small terra-cotta pots filled with sand. A large clear glass bowl was filled with water and placed on the center of the largest altar table. Scattered on the floor were tall bottles filled with warm water and a basket of thin, long tapers (candles). Torches (from the sanctuary) stood on either side of the tables and our processional cross was placed in the center back of the room.
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→
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→
This 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”→
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→