Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “mission”

Garden Variety Christian Formation

by Cynthia Coe

Two Stabs at a Model of Formation – Good Try, But They Miss the Mark

Two very different models of formation have appeared on my laptop or tablet lately.  Both had good points to make, but neither seemed to me a complete model of what formation in the 21st century needs to look like.  Derek Olsen, in an Episcopal Café article, suggests that the resources needed are already available from a plethora of sources and simply need to be vetted, perhaps by a volunteer.  Diana Butler Bass, in her excellent book Christianity After Religion, proposes mentoring relationships, whereby formation would take place one-on-one.

I am all in favor of online resources – I write them frequently.  But these resources are simply tools of formation.  Someone has to come up with the content, and content might be terrific; it might not be.  Simply vetting the content will not make what we need for formation magically appear on the screen.  One-on-one tutoring and mentoring is extremely useful, but collaborative learning and working and listening within groups is, I think, as much or perhaps more valuable.  Thus, neither of these proposals provides direction for the ministry of formation or address current challenges and opportunities in this important work.

Formation as Gardening

Mature Christians don’t just happen; somebody has to nurture them, tend to them, help keep them watered, and then even help figure out what to do with the fruits of the harvest. Spiritual formation is akin to cultivation of our gardens – planting seeds, waiting patiently for sprouts to appear, keeping young plants well watered and fertilized, then watching in awe as the harvest feeds others.

Formation is cultivation of the human soul.  Formation is growth.  Formation is cultivation of our congregations towards the full stature of Christ to provide abundant life for all.

So . . . how does our garden grow? Read more…

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Ministry with Children in The Episcopal Church

St. Thomas Episcopal Church
College Station, Texas

A story of faith, passion and wonder ….

by Robyn Szoke

In February of this year, C. Kirk Hadaway, the Staff Officer for Congregational Research and Diocesan and Congregational Ministries, presented some statistics to Executive Council. From 2004 to 2010, Church School enrollment in Episcopal congregations has declined by 33 percent. The number of child baptisms in Episcopal congregations has declined by 36 percent. Moreover, the Episcopal Church’s average Sunday attendance has fallen by 17 percent, while membership declined by 13 percent.

To begin to respond to these changes, it might be helpful to remember the hopes, the dreams, and the passion that the Episcopal Church had for children’s ministry and formation and, indeed, lifelong formation between 1985 and 2009.  Those years were an amazing time. They were alive with vision, ideas, and a commitment to the cultivation of formation – particularly children’s formation and formation within the household.

Looking back, it seems that the theology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer helped to launch a grassroots mission movement for advocacy with and ministry to (and for and by) children. By 1990, this mission movement had really taken hold. That year, the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Children’s Ministries began to gather children’s ministry specialists from around the nation. Their mission was to engage in deeper conversations about how best to serve children, including how best to fully include them in our worship communities and the prophetic notion of listening and hearing their voice.

The result of these conversations was that the Office of Children’s Ministries, along with 22 dioceses from all of the Episcopal Church’s provinces, developed and published a most amazing document: the Children’s Charter for the Episcopal Church. (In Spanish) Adopted by General Convention resolution 1997-B005, it provided a model – a standard of excellence – and accountability for congregational, diocesan, and provincial leadership.

Fueled by the publication of the Children’s Charter, the mission movement flourished. Design teams were created. Through the wisdom and hard work of provincial formation leaders, events were held, Charting a Course for Children in the Church which led to strengthening partnerships with the National Council of Churches and the Children’s Defense Fund. Through these teams and partnerships, we were able to hold events, gatherings, and conferences to advocate for children. In addition, a wonderful mission magazine was developed. Called Treasure Magazine, it was designed so that children ages 6 to 9 could read and learn about mission throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  At the same time the youth ministry office and young adult ministry office was also flourishing. Read more…

Friendships Made through Mission

by Boyd Evans

Note: This is one example of how EYE impacts youth from local congregations and dioceses in connecting with one another and the wider church through mission. 

On Sunday, June 26 many of the groups attending the Episcopal Youth Event left for a three-day mission experiences.  Caitlin Peabody from St. John’s Cathedral along with Alexis Burnham, Patrick Dobbins and chaperone Boyd Evans from St. Stephen’s Oak Ridge joined a group totaling 51 teenagers (rising sophomores to college freshmen) and 30 adult leaders from the Province IV Southeastern Diocese to travel to Northern Minnesota for a mission experience at the Red Lake Nation.  This trip was coordinated by Cookie Cantwell and Beth Crow from the Diocese of North Carolina. The Red Lake reservation is home to the Ojibwe tribe of Native Americans.  The Ojibwe are sometimes referred to as “Chippewa” as this was the pronunciation of early explorers to the area.

On the five-hour bus ride from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Northwestern Minnesota, the youth and adults learned about the history of the Ojibwe in Red Lake and watched the video “Unseen Tears: A Documentary on Boarding School Survivors”.  Unseen Tears tells the story of how children of Native American families in the early 20th century were removed from their families and sent to off-reservation boarding schools in which they were not allowed to speak their native language or practice their native culture in an effort to assimilate them into American society. Tragically, many cases of abuse and neglect were documented from these schools as well as a loss of native language and culture for a generation of Native Americans. Read more…

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