Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Resources”

Spread the Word with an Elevator Speech

elevator-speechThe 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church begins next week and there are several resolutions that Forma would like the Church to be aware of that impact Christian Formation.

Forma’s Advocacy Committee researched and wrote position papers (approved by the Forma Board of Directors) on the following resolutions.

If you are a Christian educator, youth minister, Episcopal camp or conference center staff person, or Sunday School teacher these resolutions will affect you in one way or another. They will affect every congregation and ministry in the Church. Yes, this is a radical statement, but how we prioritize the importance of Christian Formation is often shown in where we choose to budget our staff, resources, time, and money.

Each of the above resolutions have Forma’s position papers for reading and downloading in order to share with your bishop/s or deputies. If you don’t know who they are, here is the link to all diocesan deputations. They are packing their suitcases now, why not send them an e-mail with your thoughts and a position paper or two to read on the plane? Get your talking points from Jane!

Jane Gober, a Christian educator in Walla Walla, Washington (Diocese of Olympia) and member of the Advocacy teams shares her thoughts at A Blissful Irreverent in Life and Ministry about some of these resolutions.

  •  Safe Serving A073 & A074. Ever think that training to be a certified mixologist was like taking Safe Guarding God’s Children training? Jane has the experience to talk about both. Here are her talking points, but her essay is well worth the read, and will definitely give you some food (and angst) for thought. Safeguarding Virtual Elevator Speech: Approve the updates to prevention of misconduct Model Policies in A073; Approve the updates to the training materials in A074; Make sure that both the Policies and the Training Materials have input of the people on the ground doing this work; Make sure that they both deal with social media/technology and establishing gracious methods to minister with our LGBTQ friends and colleagues.
  • She’ll give you a virtual elevator speech for why we need an online resource center at the church-wide level (A075). Let the Special BE Special (that’s all of us): Approve the creation and curation of a central digital hub of Christian formation and education resources through DFMS/Episcopal Church Website. This action will serve the questions and needs of the local mission of the church in all dioceses, cease needless and wasteful repetition of identical cataloging, empower and share the best resources for the Episcopal Church’s mission of discipleship.
  • Budget Decimation for Lifelong Christian Formation: The draft Budget offered to the 78th General Convention makes significant cuts to the second mark of ministry TEACH. This area of mission is the life-giving nurture for all the areas of mission. Changes need to be made to appropriate healthy funding for both the DFMS office and FORMA. Approve needed funding for: Youth and Young Adult Events such as EYE, the Lifelong Formation office of DFMS, the FORMA grant from some place in the budget other than the Lifelong Formation Office’s budget line.

Follow Forma on Twitter and Facebook during General Convention to learn what’s going on on the ground in Salt Lake City.

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Seeds for New Life

by Genelda Woggon

Two seven year old girls miles, worlds and cultures apart bonded together through mutual delight in The Seed of God booklets brought to Bogata, Colombia by a family from Asheville, NC on a family vacation with a mission purpose in mind. Young souls nurtured in the giving and receiving of gifts.  Gifts to be enjoyed and explored together as potentially lasting friendships are formed. Friendships with each other and mutual friendships with the Good Shepherd whose story they read, each in their own language but on the same page. Being “on the same page” is but one step closer to building relationships for understanding that is foundational to world peace.

This is but one story of how these bi-lingual books are being used by the staff at the Episcopal Church Center in their partnership with private funding brings new life and joy to both those who give and those who receive.

Through the generosity of St Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation, Inc. in Salisbury, North Carolina, a Foreign Mission grant was made available to the Episcopal Church Center for the distribution of the English/Spanish edition of The Seed of God books to be used primarily with mission work in the dioceses of Province IX and other foreign mission places where the opportunity arises.  The fact that the books are best delivered by hand creates further opportunities for partnerships.

Certainly most of the books are distributed evenly to each of the dioceses by ECC staff, especially as Ruth Ann Collins, Staff Officer from the Office of Life Long Christian Formation visits these dioceses, attends regional gatherings and gives workshops at Christian Formation gatherings.  Other books are transported beyond Province IX by a variety of people from local Episcopal churches. This opens up greater possibilities of partnerships as the books become transported by folks traveling with their Companion Diocese, taking family vacations for Spanish Language immersion, or involved with a humanitarian type mission project.

Publishing by the Center for Children and Theology, these charming little booklets (in English and Spanish) are also being used with adults as well as with children.  The simple language and beautiful illustrations offers the Gospel in a nutshell as they invite hungry hearts to enter into the Good Shepherd’s love.

If the budget of the Office of Christian Formation and Vocations is removed, how will such partnerships continue and these types of connections be made?  

Genelda Woggon is the author of The Seed of God and lives with her husband, a retired priest, in Asheville, North Carolina. She is a trained catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

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. 

Scenarios for the Future

From November 7-10, 2011, leaders from across a variety of ministry settings gathered to envision the future shape of faith formation in The Episcopal Church. Through a scenario planning process the leaders identified significant forces affecting faith formation, determined two critical uncertainties that will shape future directions, and created four scenarios or narratives to capture the possibilities for the future of faith formation. The four scenarios are not predictions, projections, or prophecies but rather an attempt to provoke a realization that the future need not simply be more of the same.

The scenario planning process centered around a key focusing question: How might Christian lifelong faith formation over the next ten years affect the renewal and transformation of The Episcopal Church in 21st century America? After careful study of the significant driving forces, two uncertainties were selected from a longer list of potential uncertainties that might shape the broader context of church and faith formation over the next decade or longer. The two chosen uncertainties together define a set of four scenarios for the future of faith formation in The Episcopal Church that are divergent, challenging, internally consistent and plausible. Each of the two uncertainties is expressed as an axis that represents a continuum of possibilities ranging between two endpoints.

Critical Uncertainties

  • The Relationship of Technology and Community – Will the continuing evolution of technology enhance human community and connection or will technology diminish community and connections among people?
  • The Response of The Episcopal Church to Changing Global Realities – Will The Episcopal Church’s response toward emerging global realities, such as increasing cultural diversity, economic uncertainty and resource availability for all people, lead the Church toward an outward-focused engagement with the world or toward an inner-focused, separation from the world?

One of the resolutions to come before General Convention (Building the Continuum: An Electronic Learning Community) addresses one of the scenarios: A Church Engaged in the World & Community and Connection Enhanced by Technology. Little did the groups working on developing this scenario know that the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education had already proposed an “Online Learning Community” that would address the needs of this possible scenario.

This is a world in which The Episcopal Church utilizes all of the potential in current and emerging digital and web technologies to connect with people 24x7x365, build relationships and engage people in lifelong faith formation and mission to the world. Faith formation in physical places – congregations, camps, conference centers, and school – are all web- and digitally-enhanced, extending their programming into the everyday lives of people, anywhere and everywhere. People connect and mobilize for mission and collective action in the world using the new communication tools and web technologies. The Episcopal Church becomes a leader in utilizing the new technologies to develop lifelong disciples who are growing in their Episcopal faith and are actively engaged in transforming the world.

At the moment, there is NOT one concise location on The Episcopal Church’s website that is a portal for Christian formation resources . . . links to best practices, resources, people and programs. With the decrease in staffing positions on the local and diocesan level, such a portal is needed especially small congregations who struggle to find the resources and connections for engaging and current pedagogy in Christian formation.

Your support (with funding!) of Building the Continuum resolution at General Convention will help accomplish this!

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