Tag Archives: Called to Teach and Learn

A Rebuttal: On Forming Human Children

The below is a response to an article recently posted on the “Covenant,” a project/blog of The Living Church. Many of us in The Episcopal Church acknowledge that this publication / organization is part of the conservative (ie: homophobic) branch of our denomination and articles are often cloaked in academia and theological discourse. Trigger warning (especially to my LBGTQ+ siblings): the article is written by a priest from a parish and school in Diocese of Dallas (Texas) that does not appear to be a welcoming place for all.

A parishioner shared this article with me, seeking my response as a person who has called Christian formation her vocation and profession for over 40 years in the Episcopal Church on the parish, diocesan, and church-wide level. In discerning my response, I felt it important to share with Fr. Jordan and “The Living Church” readership my thoughts in response. 

My experience in the church and the academy is very different. Summarized in the Episcopal Church’s document Called to Teach and Learn, Christian formation (whom many still called Christian Education or Sunday School) is a catechetical process. We are “formed” by participation and practice of the Christian life of faith; a natural conforming and transforming process about which we (the Church) need to be intentional. We are “educated” by a process of critical reflection on participation in light of the gospel. We are “instructed” by processes by which knowledge and skills important to the Christian life of faith are acquired. In many ways our churches fail to embrace these three interrelated life-long processes, only focusing on the instruction piece for children as well as adults.

I’m not sure what was so great about the “older, better way” of passing along the faith – at least since my Baby Boomer days in Sunday School when the teacher was the “sage on the stage,” children were seen as empty vessels, and I had to memorize – not question – what well-meaning adults interpreted what God said. I believe we know what works better today. One example that comes immediately to mind is Godly Play, a method in which we engage the child in story, allowing their innate spirituality to wonder and embrace the mystery of God. Children truly “fall in love with God” in Godly Play. As a storyteller, I am not “forming” the children – God and God’s Story does that. As a child I was formed by God, surrounded by a community that loved me. How dare I assume to be the one forming (or needing to change) anyone. 

Continue reading A Rebuttal: On Forming Human Children

Are You Called to Be a Catechist?

Many churches have lay people who take on the volunteer role of adult education chair, children’s ministries coordinator, or youth group leader. Some churches have the luxury (and budget) to have a staff person (clergy or lay) who hold a position that oversees formation ministries. For the most part, especially our smallest congregations and those with part-time clergy, the “task” of Christian formation is part of the priest-in-charge’s portfolio. Enter the ministry of all the baptized: How can lay people in the congregation be trained to assist the clergy in the formation of God’s people – especially in the realm of preparation for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, or Renewal of Baptismal Vows? Consider discerning whether you or someone in your congregation is called to be a lay catechist.

According to the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church,

“a Catechist is a lay person authorized to prepare persons for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, and shall function under the direction of the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith” Canon 111.4.8.

Licenses for all canonical lay ministries (catechist, preacher, evangelist, worship leader, pastoral care) are issued by the bishop of one’s diocese.

I am pleased to announce that I will be teaching a course for Bexley-Seabury Seminary’s Pathways for Baptismal Living School beginning on Tuesday, April 11, 2021 for a total of seven sessions, ending on May 29 for the Catechist License. The school’s mission includes providing “life-long, life-wide & life-deep learning for ALL the baptized.” My hope is that my course will provide the tools for those who desire to “up their game” as a Christian educator of children, youth, and/or adults and ultimately, to be certified as a lay Catechist in the Episcopal Church by their bishop.

My introduction to course participants.

This seven-session blended (synchronous and asynchronous) course will prepare you to teach/form God’s people. Each week we will engage in independent study, asynchronous discussions, and live web conversations to gain comfort and confidence developing and leading formational offerings. All from the comfort of your home (or office).

SESSION 1: Theology of Formation
SESSION 2: Faith Development Across the Age Span
SESSION 3: Curriculum Development
SESSION 4: Delving Into Scripture
SESSION 5: Sacramental Preparation: Baptism
SESSION 6: Sacramental Preparation: Confirmation
SESSION 7: Putting It all Together

I’m happy to answer any questions; to set up a phone call, send me an email. And if you don’t feel called to the ministry of Lay Catechist, perhaps you are called to be an Evangelist, Preacher, or Worship Leader. Pathways for Baptismal Living has a course for you also, plus much more.

An Invitation to Transformation

In late 1999, the Office of Children’s Ministries of the Episcopal Church developed a process (Educational Inquiry) to help congregations fully live into lifelong Christian formation that included the voice of children. Built upon Called to Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Guide for the Episcopal Church (Un Llamado a Ensenar y Aprender) and Discovering Called to Teach and Learn (Descubriendo Uno Llamado) (by Joseph Russell) published in 1994, it involves a method of “educational inquiry” based on Appreciative Inquiry alongside the Children’s Charter of the Church and Authority of All Generations.

Continue reading An Invitation to Transformation

A Back to Basics Q & A

Recently I have been invited to give workshops in numerous locations on the basics; the core documents and key websites that I believe anyone involved in Christian formation with children, youth, or adults needs to know about. For January’s Forma Conference workshop, I put together a handout where they are all located in one place.

But for those who want the documents with more of an explanation – here goes. Think of it as a catechism for Episcopal educators: a question with some answers. These are the questions I am frequently asked, and how I respond:

Q. What is the curriculum authorized by the Episcopal Church?

A. The Episcopal Church does not have an authorized, published curriculum for any age. If anything, all of what is taught should be based on The Baptismal Covenant and An Outline of the Faith (also known as The Catechism found in the Book of Common Prayer. However, the Episcopal Church, via a General Convention resolution and Task Force assigned for its implementation, created a seminal text: Called To Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Vision and Guide for the Episcopal Church  (1994). Every church was sent one. Many churches put them on the bookshelf or in a closet and never opened its covers. You can download it here, as well as a companion piece written by The Rev. Canon Joe Russell, Discovering Called to Teach and Learn. The Spanish version is here. Continue reading A Back to Basics Q & A