Building the Continuum: An Electronic Community
Building the Continuum: An Electronic Learning Community
Thanks to technology and the Web, we can tap into what is without question some of the most transformative connecting technologies the world has ever seen. These tools are allowing us not only to mine wisdom from around the world, they help us collaborate and share our work with one another. However, for educators and our churches, the challenges of this moment in time are significant.
During this trieniuum it became apparent that we as a Church have not shifted to embrace this new way of providing resources and wisdom in the most economical and collaborative way. Many churches have access to educational support, while many do not. There had been a time when offices in The Episcopal Church could publish and disseminate print materials to dioceses and congregations. There had been a time when dioceses had libraries with vast collections of curricula and books. There had been a time when congregations had budgets to purchase new materials. This is not the case anymore.
A Resource Working Group was appointed to study the feasibility of making the best use of today’s technology available to all. A Web portal (www.teforall.org) that was once sponsored by an office of The Episcopal Church has gone fallow. We believe The Episcopal Church is called to be a “connector” to help in the collaboration of the vast resources that exist in our Church today by creating a website that serves as an online learning community. This can serve as a portal for any church or individual seeking support in the area of Christian formation.
The need for such a resource was confirmed at “Building the Continuum: The Episcopal Church Summit on Faith Formation” (a response to B003) in November 2011. This event sponsored by Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers, gathered leaders from across a variety of ministry settings to envision the future shape of faith formation in The Episcopal Church. The Summit focused on the question “How might Christian lifelong faith formation over the next ten years affect the renewal and transformation of The Episcopal Church in the 21st century world?” An overwhelming response to a variety of possible future scenarios all involved church-wide entities providing online resources through new communication tools and web technologies.
The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation (2009: A082) invited individuals “to enter into a prayerful life of worship, continuous learning, intentional outreach, advocacy and service; to be inspired to develop new learning experiences, equipping disciples for life in a world of secular challenges and carefully listening for the words of modern sages who embody the teachings of Christ; and to be transformed by striving to be a loving and witnessing community which faithfully confronts the tensions in the church and the world as we struggle to live God’s will.” Creating such an Online Learning Community will help congregations make this a reality by providing access to resources that they may never otherwise know about.
In this fast moving time in which we live, we are accustomed to web and digital technologies to help us in all areas of our lives. We are living in a new age and the Church cannot be left behind. The Church has the technology at hand to make an online resource center accessible. Let us continue “Building the Continuum.”
Resolution A047 Develop an Electronic Learning Community
Resolved that The House of _________ concurring, The Episcopal Church develop an electronic learning community with delivery systems to support faith formation, collaboration, and networking with interactive capabilities for cross-conversations on the web; and be it further
Resolved that upgrades in technology, necessary staff, technology networking as needed and staff coordination within The Episcopal Church Center be completed; and be it further
Resolved that the Offices of Formation and Vocation and the Office of Communications be directed to collaborate and gather within one year of the adoption of this resolution such resources and tools from all levels of the church to populate this electronic learning community; and it be further
Resolved that this online community have elements of mission, worship, advocacy, evangelism, scripture, environmental issues, Christian faith formation, outreach, stewardship, and social justice as articulated in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation and Education; and be it further
Resolved that a review committee, charged with ensuring the integrity and breadth in the development of these resource materials, and composed of 9 members representing various ministries and disciplines of the Church, be appointed by the Chief Operating Officer in consultation with the various ministry disciplines of The Episcopal Church Center; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $210,000.00 for the upcoming triennium for the implementation of this resolution.
The Episcopal Church in the 21st century is called to look at providing faith formation resources via a network rather than single congregations or dioceses operating alone. Our diversity will call for faith opportunities for all ages, in all circumstances and in a variety of experiences. We are called to be collaborators, including in how we share the vast arena of Christian formation content. Today’s technology now provides a means to do so.
Most dioceses and congregations do not have a staff member to search for program ideas, resources, and connections to the greater Episcopal community in the area of faith formation. The Internet has greatly reduced that isolation, but it takes a trained eye and an Episcopal ethos to weed through the vast amount of content that is found on the web that can inform living out our Baptismal promises and the Five Marks of Mission.
Offering such an online, curated resource would allow the Church to incorporate an immense range of faith formation opportunities. With the Offices of Christian Formation and Vocations working alongside the Office of Communications, a site can be developed to support the entire Church. Representatives from a variety of constituencies can serve as a review committee, vetting the practicality and relevance of content and time. All of this could be done electronically and would not need face-to-face meetings. In this way, all resources on this site will be examined as appropriate for use in Episcopal settings: home, church, school and beyond.
The funds requested for this resolution would be targeted to the technology development that would need to be built for such a site over the next triennium. We believe that an online learning community that can serve as a “Resource Center” for the 21st century can provide access to all in our church and beyond, creating a hub for learning and transformation, exhibiting a collaborative effort in sharing the multitude of programs and resources that exist across the Church.