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.
Many of the formative experiences in life happen when several generations are together. Think about it – when were you fully engaged in learning about Jesus or living out your Baptismal Covenant? Surely it wasn’t when you were alone. Perhaps it was in serving others or immersed in a worship service. Most likely there was more than one generation present. In our society we tend to separate people by age mainly for education and employment. In the recent past, Christian formation programs have made the same separation of generations, but more and more formation educators are offering programs in which adults and children learn together. It is a way to pass on faith – generation to generation. Old learn from young, and young learn from old.
While Sunday mornings may still sadly be the most segregated time in our country (at least for mainline church-goers), it is the most generationally diverse time many of us experience all week. Our worship involved young and old, and every age in-between at worship.
Fall 2018 saw the launch of a bunch of great books I have edited and Spring 2019 is looking just as exciting.
One new area I have helped grow for Church Publishing is children’s books. I loved to read as a child which translated into weekly trips to the library with my children and helping to fill my almost 4-year-old granddaughter’s bedroom shelves with picture books that are multi-cultural, funny, environmental, justice-oriented, inclusive, and empowering (especially to girls). So I am always on the lookout for beautiful religious books too. So I am proud of two titles that I hope fill the shelves of church school classrooms, Godly Play rooms, and of course, the homes of children. Anna V. Ostenso Moore’s wonderfully inclusive Today is a Baptism Day is beautifully illustrated by Peter Krueger. And this month is the launch of Candle Walk: A Bedtime Prayer to God by Karin Holsinger Sherman that just appeared on my doorstep. Both are appropriate for children ages 3-10, but I believe parents and teachers will love them also.
This is the third part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here? and Part 2: Today’s Context
Part Three: A New Ecosystem
We know things are broken in how we are doing Christian education in our churches today (for the most part). It is often difficult to determine how they got broken, what the cause was (which is usually not just one thing), and how we can make corrections for the better. John Roberto, of Lifelong Faith Associates and Vibrant Faith Ministries suggests we need a new ecosystem for faith formation:
One of the most important tasks for 21st century faith formation is to create a new faith formation ecosystem for the continuing mission of making disciples and forming faith across the whole life span. What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of living organisms with each other and their environment. It is any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts.
For well over 100 years in the US, Christian churches had a highly integrated religious ecosystem. It was comprised of multigenerational family faith practice and religious transmission at home; strong congregational community relationships; church life, especially participation in Sunday workshop; weekly Sunday School for children and youth (and in many cases, adults); and separate church groups for youth, men, and women. All of this was surrounded by an American culture that explicity or implicity supported the Christian value system and Christian practices.
This ecosystem has eroded and changed over the past several decades because of all the changes in the culture and society, the family, technology and communication and more. The environment has changed, and the relationship between congregational faith formation and its environment has changed. We need a new faith formation ecosystem that must be faithful to our mission of making disciples and lifelong faith growth, and at the same time be responsive to the challenges of the 21st century and the religious needs of people today.