Tag Archives: discernment

About those mentors . . .

A confirmand and his mentor from Trinity Episcopal Church, Menlo Park, California

As noted in my previous post, I gave a workshop over the weekend on “Best Practices in Confirmation Ministry.” Several asked for my handout as well as my presentation slides, so they can be found here:

As I introduced the group to the Confirmation Collaborative. Basically, anyone who is gathered to discuss best practices of confirmation as well as share stories and struggles about making this catechetical time a catalyst for ongoing faith formation in our congregations. One of our discussions centered around having mentors for confirmands. What does this entail? Who does the choosing? What do mentors actually do?

Gail Sheehy, the author who did pioneering work about the various passages of life, recommends some tasks to consider during the fifth decade of life. She said that some of the most important work is in having and being a mentor. Will Willimon writes in Making Disciples: Mentor’s Guide:

Continue reading About those mentors . . .

“Find a voice in a whisper”

MLK Memorial1 Samuel 3:1-20 ~ Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18                                       1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ~ John 1:43-51

“Find a voice in a whisper.”

When I was ten years old one of my best friends was a girl who was bused to my school from across town. I don’t remember much about how or why, I just knew there was a bus that brought kids to my elementary school that did not live in my neighborhood. Deborah and I enjoyed playing together at recess, but she didn’t come home to play with me, and I never went to her house after school. I didn’t know it, let alone understand it, and we didn’t talk about it – only perhaps in whispers. It was a time of desegregation in the cities in Connecticut, and all across our nation. It amazes me that it was fifty years ago. How times have changed – or maybe not.

How many of you have seen the recently released movie “Selma”? If you haven’t ­­– go. If you’ve got middle schoolers ­­– bring them along with you; give your high schooler the cash to go with their friends. Continue reading “Find a voice in a whisper”

A New Year, A New Look, A New Beginning

tres_reyesIt’s the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany – the Magi have been following that new, strange, bright light in the sky and they reach their destination at the foot of the Christ child after a long journey. Although not quite the same, we’ve been on a journey recently too – Christmas was twelve days ago and 2014 is almost a week old now.

I still have a few Christmas decorations up, but the tree is down and the needles vacuumed away. It’s a cold and icy Sunday afternoon, with football on the TV and Chobe curled at my feet. While I resumed work after the holidays last week, tomorrow begins the new year in full force as most folks will be back to the usual pre-holiday schedule . . . work, school, setting the alarm clock. Continue reading A New Year, A New Look, A New Beginning

Why Certification?

For numerous years, those who call the ministry of Christian formation and education as their vocation in the Episcopal Church have lamented the lack of equity and standards within our church. When the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors (NAECED) was formed almost 15 years ago, one of its purposes for organizing was to develop standards for the certification of Christian educators. This past weekend I was privileged to attend a gathering of stakeholders (representing a variety of threads that have been working toward this goal) at Virginia Theological Seminary. I am beginning to have hope. 2017 Update: NAECED has now become Forma.

Our ecumenical partners have long recognized the importance of lifting up and acknowledging the ministry of Christian educators with certification. APCE (Presbyterian Church USA) and CEF (Christian Educators Fellowship of the United Methodist Church) have led the way. And while they have struggled to live into their levels of certification and continuing education requirements for those members who choose to follow this route, they have paved the way for us.

Why certification?

  • Validation and Credibility – Are educators valued as equals to other staff members in a congregation? Are their education and gifts accepted?
  • This is a Career Path chosen by many – Do we want future generations to find this a rewarding career in which one can earn a living?
  • Feeling isolated – Is there a system in which one can turn when searching for continuing education and support?
  • Variations across dioceses and polity – Can there be standards for pay and benefits commensurate with education and experience on a national scale?
  • Need for consciousness-raising – If the church truly thinks education is important, why doesn’t it treat educators with the same passion?

In 2009, General Convention endorsed the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation. Theologically trained and experienced Christian educators can help the church live into this vision. Can the church help lift up the ministry of those who are ready to partner and make this vision a reality?

Statistics have shown that churches that focus on lifelong formation have more engaged communities than those that just focus on Sunday School for children.  In the Episcopal Church, is lifelong formation an agreed upon norm? Is discernment for lifelong committed Christians the norm?  In our post-Christian world, adults are coming to the church without any grounding in faith. For many churches, 6th grade (or Confirmation) is the graduation point; parents who are not formed in faith will not realize the validity of engaging their children into their searching and discerning years. We need to be focusing on discipleship. An “educated” educator in a congregation who has been mentored by respected leaders of the church will continue to grow and learn alongside his or her peers as well as those with whom they share ministry.

The conversation has just begun. But there is definite energy and momentum around a Certificate for Leadership for Lifelong Christian Formation. There is more work to do and many more conversations to be had.

2017 Update: Many certificate programs now exist through Forma. You can learn more about each here:

Lord, please let our small mustard seeds of daily service grow into great shrubs of change and trees in whose branches the birds can nest and in whose shade our children can rest and feel safe. Marian Wright Edelman

A Prayer for the New Year

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, although I do try to start a new year off with a fresh start. A new year always seems like a second chance, a fresh beginning. Beginning something new is not easy . . . just like having to write a new year’s date on a check for the first time – you forget, and unconsciously write the previous year in the tiny box.

I already know 2011 will be a watershed one for me.  The likelihood of three aging parents making it through to 2012 is slim. My daughter getting married. Endings and beginnings. Bookends with lots of unknowns in-between them.

I Hold My Life Up to You Now

by Ted Loder in Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle (1984: Innisfree Press, Inc.)

Patient God, the clock struck midnight and I partied with a strange sadness in my heart, confusion in my mind.

Now I ask you to gather me, for I realize the storms of time have scattered me, the furies of the year have driven me, many sorrows have scarred me, many accomplishments have disappointed me, much activity has wearied me, and fear has spooked me into a hundred hiding places, one of which is pretended gaiety.

I am sick of a string of “Have a nice day’s.”

What I want is passionate days, wondrous days, blessed days, surprising days.

What I want is you!

Patient God, this day teeters on the edge of waiting and things seem to slip away from me, as though everything was only a memory and memory is capricious.

Help me not to let my life slip away from me.

O God, I hold up my life to you now, as much as I can, in this mysterious reach called prayer.

Come close, lest I wobble and fall short.

It is not days or years I seek from you, not infinity and enormity, but small things and moments and awareness, awareness that you are in what I am and in what I have been indifferent to.

It is not new time, but new eyes, new heart I seek, and you.

Patient God, in this teetering time, this time of balance, this time of waiting, make me aware of moments, moments of song, moments of bread and friends, moments of jokes (some of them on me) which, for a moment, deflate my pomposities; moments of sleep and warm beds, moments of children laughing and parents bending, moments of sunsets and sparrows outspunking winter, moments when broken things get mended with glue or guts or mercy or imagination; moments when splinters sine and rocks shrink, moments when I know myself blest, not because I am so awfully important, but because you are so awesomefully God, no less of the year to come as of all the years past; no less of this moment than of all my moments; no less of those who forget you as of those who remember, as I do now, in this teetering time.

O patient God, make something new in me, in this year, for you.