Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Military”

Lifelong Formation: Talking Points

from the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation (Provincial representatives) 

Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning: Talking Points 

The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ: to teach, baptize and nurture new believers. #2 of The Five Marks of Mission

Why are Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning important to the Episcopal Church?

Children’s Ministries provides imaginative, innovative resources for those who work with children and encourages congregations to fully include children in their church communities and in exploring their own ministries.  Through the Children’s Charter, the Episcopal Church is called to love, shelter, protect, and defend children within its own community and in the world.

Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning provides guidance and helps facilitate formation that transforms us as Christians throughout our lives.  Through the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, the church is called to invite, inspire and transform people to a life of learning, growth and service.

This work is the ministry of:

  • Equipping, building up and sending out Christians who can be faithful witnesses, mentors and teachers to children, youth and adults as they are formed in faith.
  • Resourcing underserved communities, such as collectively creating new resources for members of the armed services and their families during deployment, or curriculum for Province 9.
  • Connecting people and resources across the church.
  • Collaborating with other Episcopal ministries, such as the Asian American and Hispanic ministries, to develop faith formation as an integral piece of their trainings and gatherings, such as in the New Community Gathering in 2011.
  • Connecting all generations through integrated partnership and planning with Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries, recognizing that Lifelong Formation occurs across a continuum, not in isolated, age-segregated communities.

What have these program offices accomplished during the last triennium?

These offices have actively sought out partnerships with other Church Center ministries to do this work.  Here are some of the things that have been done together:

  • Children’s Program at General Convention.
  • Development of materials around the Doctrine of Discovery, together with Native American Ministries
  • Development of faith formation materials for use by military families before, during and after deployment, together with the Office of Federal Chaplaincies
  • Gatherings such as the New Community Gathering, together with Asian American, Black, Latino, and Native Ministries.
  • Developing resources and trainings for congregations engaged in ministries with Older Adults.
  • Promoting Children’s Advocacy through the distribution of The Seed of God materials, with Global Ministries.
  • Christian Formation trainings together with the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Diocese of Taiwan.
  • Working together with the Diversity Group as they trained Master Trainers to do their work through the lens of Faith Formation.
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers.

What are the plans for the future?

Moving into the future, this office is needed to continue this work:

  • Identifying gaps in service – needs that are beyond the scope of a single diocese or province.
  • Continuing to work collaboratively to enable formation at every level of ministry in the Episcopal church and through our many networks and focus areas, such as  pending program development with the office of  Economic and Environmental Affairs.
  • Ensuring the continued “seamless” model of program delivery across all age and generational boundaries.
  • Connecting places that have identified needs with best practices discovered elsewhere in the church through observation and relationship that develop as this work continues.
  • Re-energizing our focus on Children’s Advocacy needs and possibilities.
  • Offering church-wide gatherings for the purposes of equipping formation ministers at all levels of the community.

The proposed budget suggests the functions of this ministry should “re-focus work to within dioceses.”  Will this work?

It has been proposed that the work of Formation ministries is best done on a provincial, diocesan or parish level.  The hard reality is that 40% of dioceses have no current staffing for formation ministries.  Less than 10% of dioceses have resource centers.  Perhaps some of this work could be done on this level, but most of the dioceses are not ready to receive this charge.  If this is the direction in which we wish to move as a denomination, we need a fully funded transition period of 3-6 years, in which this opportunity is taken on in an intentional and thoughtful manner.  It is a matter of justice to do otherwise, knowing that only a small percentage of U.S. congregations have faith formation staff at all.  There will continue to be a need, however, from a denominational perspective, for formation staff who can work from a “macro” level to look for the gaps – the very real ministry needs that are beyond the scope of a diocese or even a province to manage. 

  • Mary Ann Kolakowski, Province 1, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Province 2, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Mary Lou Crifasi, Province 3, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Jenny Beaumont, Province 4, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Mary Perrin, Province 5, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Kathy Monson-Lutes, Province 6, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Cynthia Spencer, Province 8, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation

Download these Talking Points to share with your deputies and bishops.

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Ministry to Children with a Deployed Parent

Old Army Tank

Old Army Tank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Janie Stevens

Several years ago I was invited to work on a project with Ruth Ann Collins, Staff Officer for Lifelong Christian Formation and Bishop George Packard, Suffragan Bishop to the Chaplains and several other folks.  Our task was to write a program for those deployed and their families that would include a liturgy for leave-taking and one for returning, a Bible study that both the deployed and the at home family members would participate in and a book program for both the deployed and children at home.  These activities would give them something to talk about besides problems when they had their phone calls and to stay connected with each other.

We journeyed to Ft. Hood to visit with some families about things they wished the church would do for them.  One young officer was leaving his children at the preschool at the church where we were and I asked him if he had a minute for a question.  He had just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq and was anticipating another tour there or in Afghanistan in the near future.  I asked him what he wished the church would do for him.  “The church needs to teach young people how to pray before their tank gets shot,” he said.  “It’s too late then to learn how to pray.”

The resource referred to here, Across the Miles, was published jointly by the Office of Lifelong Christian Formation and the Office of Federal Ministries and is an example of how a church-wide office for Christian Formation can bring the grassroots level together to create a needed resource that otherwise might not come to fruition. 

Several years later, I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer.  Depression set in and I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been.  I felt that God was nowhere near.  One day I remembered what this young officer had said.  I told my priest who was visiting me that day that I felt that my tank had been shot.  She asked me more of the story and we determined that in fact I did know how to pray, that I did know that God was always there and that I should get busy doing what I certainly knew how to do.  My own prayers and the prayers of many people, known and unknown, were answered.  Today I am cancer free and my prayer life has taken on a deeper and more meaningful life.  By the way, the next morning after my friend’s visit, a very small army tank was found on our porch.  This outward and visible symbol of grace has a prime spot on our kitchen island.  Today it is sitting on a tray filled with Easter grass, Easter eggs and our Easter tree.

We are called in the church to be advocates for children – to advocate for their rightful place in the church, to help them find their ministry and to honor them.  We are called to invite, inspire and watch the transformation of lives that occur when people feel God’s love and our Christian love present.  People yearn for acceptance, love and a feeling of wholeness.  This transforming love is the Gospel message we hear every Sunday, it is what we are called to do in our Baptismal Covenant promises – to pray, to learn, to repent, to love, to teach, to respect.  These are lifelong promises.

Janie Stevens is a member of the Standing Committee for Lifelong Formation and Education.  Previously she served 25 years in 2 small/midsize congregations and as the Missioner for Christian Formation for the Diocese of Texas for 10 years.  She has also served on provincial, national and international Christian Formation boards and committees. 

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