Today I received a copy of the newly released second edition of Klara Tammany’s book, Living Water: Baptism as a Way of Life. First published in 2002, it had an unusual trim-size and layout that was cost-prohibitive to reprint so it went “out of print” despite numerous backorders. During my last years at Church Publishing, I advocated it be re-published as Klara agreed to update it. Approved for publication (again) in 2019 right before my retirement, it fell to two colleagues – Wendy Claire Barrie and then Milton Brasher-Cunningham – to see to its completion. I give thanks for their passing the baton toward publication. I had been asked to write the foreword, but alas the page count was tight, so it was not included. So I share it here:
My first memory of God involves a baptism. I was almost four years old, gathered with family around a font in what seemed like a private room adjacent to the church sanctuary of my childhood. Sunshine streamed through the stained-glass windows, dancing on the concrete baptismal font and red carpet. It was the occasion of my brother’s baptism and I knew that I was present for something important. I experienced warmth, community, the sacred — the important stuff of life that I could not yet articulate. I felt love. That visual and visceral memory has been etched into my being and has sustained me throughout my life.
The Episcopal Church has changed since that day of private baptism in which only family and close friends participated following the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. As a child I did not know what it meant to be a full member of the worshiping community and receive Holy Communion. Baptism was not central to Episcopalians at the time — at least not overtly. Being a Christian and going to church each Sunday was a given. Being formed in faith was not a common phrase; I needed to memorize the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and “My Bounden Duty” before I could be confirmed at age twelve, allowing me to receive communion (once a month). Four generations (the Lost, the Greatest, the Silent, and Baby Boomer) of a single family could fill a church and Sunday School classrooms; Sundays were days for worship and family, with local sports’ fields dormant and stores locked up tight.
I usually update my curriculum charts every year in April or May. This year I am late; I’ve come to realize that in my “retirement” I don’t have the energy (or heart) to focus on this project that I’ve done annually for at least twenty years now. And I must admit my frustration – every year on social media groups that focus on Christian formation the same questions are asked: what are you using for your [fill in the blank] with [fill in the blank with an age group]. It is followed by countless responses of “use this,” “we like this,” or “I have heard this is good.” That is NOT how to choose a curriculum for your church programs, no matter the age.
While not new terms, discipleship and spiritual renewal are having a resurgence across denominational circles. And it is often misunderstood in terms of a “movement.”
For some, “renewal” implies a new revivalism, while for others it is simply synonymous with a particular expression of renewal such as the Charismatic Movement, Cursillo, or Tres Dias of many years ago (and in some circles continues). There are those who perceive in the emphasis on “renewal” as self-indulgent flight into personal interiority by well-off churchgoers unwilling to confront the many pressing social and political problems that surround us.
Jesus spent most of his ministry around the shores of Israel’s largest freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee, now peppered with ancient synagogues and Christian pilgrimage sites. Known as Kinneret in Hebrew (also called Lake Tiberias, and the Sea of Chinnereth or the Lake of Gennesaret in the Old Testament), it is 13 miles long, 8 miles wide, and about 720 feet below sea level. Today it reminds me of a beach destination, with families coming to swim or boat, with schools of young people learning how to wind surf.
But surrounding the Sea of Galilee are places where Jesus taught and healed. Jesus most likely came here after his time in the desert (following his baptism in the Jordan River). Galilee is a region of Israel/Palestine north of Judea, separated by Samaria and south of Lebanon. Herod Antipas, (21 BCE—39 CE), son of Herod I the Great (read about the Herodium) became tetrarch of Galilee and ruled throughout Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry. Jesus is reported as having referred to him with contempt as “that fox” (Luke 13:32).
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→