Tag Archives: Forma

How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma

FormaGroup2016I have just returned from the 19th Annual Forma Conference in Philadelphia, and it occurs to me that our Church can learn much from how this organization for Christian Formation leaders in The Episcopal Church has been behaving lately.

We’re always hearing about the decline in church membership, the “graying” of those in the pews, and younger generations who are choosing to stay away – preferring to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” These past few days in Philadelphia gave me time to reflect on what was different (and exciting) as I listened, watched, and rejoiced in what was going on all around me.

First, a little history. Most of my adult vocation has been in Christian education on a parish, diocesan, or church-wide level. I’ve seen decline in church attendance, alongside the budget cuts of formation positions (and education funding) on all church levels. I’ve been a Forma member almost since its inception (which began in 1997 as NAECED – the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors), joining when I was a part-time Church School Coordinator.

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Forma Leadership in 2002 in New Orleans

I’ve been to at least 15 NAECED/Forma conferences, with my first one in New Orleans in 2002. There were about 40 people present and all our sessions were together in a small hotel conference room. We were all women (with maybe two men), mostly lay folk, and most involved in children’s ministries. And we were aging – just like the church in general. We did not represent the diversity that exists in our communities. As years (and annual conferences) went by I was beginning to wonder if there was a future generation to follow in my footsteps, or if the vocation of Christian education was to go the way of the dodo bird (and maybe organized religion). Continue reading How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma

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The Art of Forming Faithful People: Forma 2015

Unknown-3I spent the last few days of January in Houston, Texas attending Forma‘s 18th Annual Conference. It was a jam-packed few days filled with excellent workshops, outstanding speakers, and (most importantly for me) a chance to network and learn from colleagues from across the United States (and beyond) about new ideas, joys, and struggles in the world of lifelong Christian formation in the Episcopal Church.

There have been several Forma members who have shared their perspective of the event that you can read, including Kyle Oliver of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary who wrote about keynoter Brene Brown’s keynote. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Brown, it’s best to view her TED Talk regarding vulnerability. The best summary I can give of her amazing talk was what I put out on Twitter during the presentation (@rowsofsharonp). All her quotes:

  • I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Christian formation.
  • If you want to form people with god you need to inspire them
  • fear + anxiety + shame = scarcity
  • The casualty of fear and scarcity is faith
  • We can be a place that doesn’t offer certainty but that offers love
  • Leading from scarcity moves people away.
  • How many of you have a gratitude practice?
  • how many of you incorporate gratitude practices into your ministry?
  • Knowledge is only rumor until you live it in your bones
  • Children need a place of belonging that is not school
  • It is our job – formation folk – is to accept ppl for who they are and offer a space to belong
  • I’ve never been asked to choose intellect over faith in the Episcopal Church
  • Shame only works when you feel you’re alone. Embrace empathy.
  • Our kids are desperate for boundaries.
  • Difference between entitlement and privilege is gratitude
  • Hopelessness + shame = violence. We need to cultivate hope and offer an alternative.

Continue reading The Art of Forming Faithful People: Forma 2015

E.P.I.C.

mountain-hi-resEpic = ep·ic / ˈepik/

noun: a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
adjective: of, relating to, or characteristic of an epic or epics; heroic or grand in scale or character; informal; particularly impressive or remarkable.

It began with my own epic adventure attempting to travel from my home in Connecticut to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. I was headed to the annual Tapestry conference of Forma, the association of Episcopal Christian formation leaders. What should have been a 50-minute flight, snowstorm “Janus” had me queuing at the taxi stand at the LGA Delta Shuttle terminal after all flights to DCA were cancelled for the day. A taxi to Penn Station with 3 other road warriors, followed by moving forward, backward, and forward again on Amtrak to Union Station in Washington, DC followed by a Metro adventure, and another cab ride that made me thankful I had stopped at an ATM brought me to my final destination twelve hours later.

I wasn’t the only conference participant who had an adventure getting to Alexandria. But once we all (170+ of us) arrived, we were in for a real ride. Keynote speakers Lisa Kimball, professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership and Director of the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary paired with Patricia Lyons, the JK-12 Director of Service Learning at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Episcopal) School in Alexandria led us on an “Epic Adventure of Faith.”

My take on their plenaries regarding the “Once and Future Church” via my Twitter feed (and some notes):

Sharon Ely Pearson ‏‪@rowsofsharonp Jan 22

  • ‪@kimball_lisa and Tricia Lyons keynote with sunglasses and dinging bells. C E leaders make sure there is a once and future church ‪#forma14
  • Who are we not including in the “game” of church? Are we still playing the old version of monopoly?
  • Retweeted: S Williams-Duncan ‏‪@SWilliamsDuncan Jan 22 
Apple is willing to ask people “What will your verse be?” We should be asking this! ‪#Forma14
  • Sharon Ely Pearson ‏‪@rowsofsharonp Jan 22‪#Forma14 ‪@kimball_lisa sharing insights from “Families & Faith” by Vern Bengtson. Need to check out this book.
  • Good news of a declining religion is that the church is starting to pay attention to the importance of Christian formation
  • If our “once” church is to reclaim our voice we need to embrace and proclaim our epic adventure of personal life wide formation
  • If we don’t link lifelong  with life wide, XF people will be lined up for Habitat for Humanity & the church will become a dog park

Sharon Ely Pearson ‏‪@rowsofsharonp Jan 23

  • Moving on the game board of life – fraught with anxiety trying to stay alive. Game or documentary? ‪#Forma14
  • Saving the Church is not an epic mission – it’s not what we are called to do. How do we stay clear of where the Spirit is moving?
  • Hindrances to epic adventures: fear (wounds, decline, scarcity). Angels tell us ‘fear not’. Must choose paradigm of abundance.
  • Our call is not to save the “structure” but to refocus on the epic journey of the kingdom.
  • Reformation happened due to a failure of pastoral ministry-failure of inviting & creating in an epic way.
  • Retweeted Kyle Matthew Oliver ‏‪@kmoliver Jan 23 
Jesus showed us the invitation to faith is not primarily moral. Don’t get pulled into making faith primarily about behavior.
  • Amazing “breakfast entree” of epic proportions given to us by ‪#TrishLyons
  • Church leaders find ourselves as cruise directors instead of walking with others on their journeys. ‪#forma14 ‪@kimball_lisa
  • Retweeted Mike Angell ‏‪@angellmike Jan 23‪@kimball_lisa at ‪#forma14 “We shouldn’t be baptizing people who don’t know what they are going to do on the other side of the event.”
  • We need to expect more of people, not less in joining us on the epic journey of Christ. We need to raise the bar.
  • We find ourselves as cruise directors instead of walking with others on their journey
  • EPIC – Experiential, Participatory, Imagistic, Connective. (Starbucks) (Worship) that transforms.
  • We are not “teaching” people, we are inviting people to be formed as a people of God on a participatory journey not led by experts.

Sharon Ely Pearson ‏‪@rowsofsharonp Jan 24

  • Packed ballroom for the final plenary which will be epic w Lisa & Tricia
  • Formation is about continuing the epic adventure of Jesus. How do we baptized our narratives with the Gospel?
  • A small gesture can change a child: Caine’s Arcade – Imagination Foundation Cardboard Challenge 
  • Tricia & epic adventure of Harry Potter is our Christian narrative. We’ve got the ultimate epic adventure with Christ
  • What is the dement or in your life? What sucks your joy?
  • Patronus charm = prayer
  • Retweeted Audrey O’Brien ‏‪@episcoaudrey Jan 24 
Dobby as ultimate disciple: what would it be like to be given your freedom but chose to give your life back in service?
  • LeeAnn Watkins sharing the epic adventure of her church and community in MN.

A little too cryptic for you? See and hear what happened between my tweets at each of these links for the full story:

Key Resources offers a conference “wrap up” with a listing of all sorts of links and descriptions to what was going on at the conference. Forma Day 1: Epic adventure, life-long and life-wide and Forma Day 2: Partners in Adventure

Forma has posted videos for each plenary offered by Lisa & Tricia. View them on the Forma YouTube Channel. Definitely worth your time to watch each of them. And they might make for great Adult Forum viewing and discussion as well as a teacher’s or staff meeting.