Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018.09.23 A Crisis of Formation In the Episcopal Church?

Does anyone imagine that the core values of the Christianity—like social justice, prayer, outreach, compassion, liturgy, ministry, care for all Creation—flourish without a solid rootedness in faith formation? 

Yesterday Dick and I were presenters at a day-long Ministry Network Showcase, sponsored by the diocese. There were thirteen presenters sharing specific ministries focused on Reimagining Our Congregations, Building Our Relationships, and Engaging Our World. We spoke as the Coordinators of Education for Ministry (EfM) in the diocese. Here’s Dick at our resource table. So cute, isn’t he?
Obviously all presentations, strictly timed (with only a couple of cheats) at 18 minutes each, overlapped in energy and intent: being in relationship to work together as ministers to bring about justice, compassion, and peace. All these works can happen without religious faith of course, but the fuel for their implanting and ongoing verve is spiritual—the love of God in our flesh. It’s shareable!   Ministry is present in whatever we do. Think of it this way: everyone we meet and everything that happens presents us with an opportunity to enhance or impede the flow of divine love.

To avoid dryness, Dick and I invited the audience to listen in on a conversation between two lay Episcopalians about The Episcopal Church (TEC). We opened with “Houston, we have a problem! We can’t get down!”

What’s that got to do with the Church?

Despite being lost in wonder, love and praise over our liturgy and music, we haven’t done well landing in ongoing faith formation for adults—ADULTS!

Some facts—not fake news, taken from an article by Missy Morain, lifelong Christian formation advocate in the Diocese of Los Angeles, entitled “A Crisis of Formation.” 

“Christian Faith Formation in TEC is lifelong growth in the knowledge, service and love of God as followers of Christ and is informed by Scripture, Tradition and Reason.” That, dear friend, is TEC’s General Convention (GC) resolution passed in 2009.

Are we doing it?

Not so much.
    -At our 2018 GC there was NO talk about formation and discipleship.
    -Over the past nine years GC made significant changes to structure and governance of TEC.  They chose in 2012, just three years after that noble resolution, to END the work of the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation, to CUT its budget by $2 million, AND to reduce its full-time staff from 9 people to 4. FOUR!
    -There is only enough staff and funding to work on formation for ages 13-30. Do the math. Is that lifelong?

It IS a crisis. What now?

EfM of course. It’s offered by the Beecken Center of the School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennesee and has been around since 1975. It is defined as a distance learning program of adult formation—a curriculum covering both biblical testaments, church history and theology over four years. EfM meets in small weekly seminar groups guided by certified and re-certified mentors. EfM happens all over TEC and the Anglican Communion AND it’s ecumenical, open to all denominations. 

Too big a commitment!

Sign up one year at a time.

My Rector’s too busy to take on another parish program.

EfM is not a parish program. It comes at no cost and with nothing to do. Maybe offer space.

Oh, the vestry will love that! 

EfM thrives on TR. That’s theological reflection, a process that helps us connect the wisdom of our faith tradition to our lived experience. TR is spiritual: EfM’s heart and soul. Insights are electric!

Come on! Really?

Yup. Here are a couple of true examples.

I’m a parent serving on our local school board. I was recently stunned when one of our kindergarten teachers came before the board. She spoke about EfM, said it made her a theologian and a minister. She asked us if she could apply the 18 CEUS she got yearly for her EfM training to fulfill her continuing education requirement as a teacher.  She told us she saw her students with new eyes. I was so impressed.

Did the board grant her request?

You bet we did—unanimously.

Another EfM’er, a businessman, raved about his EfM group, told me he never thought of himself as a minister. “Imagine me a minister!” He laughed, then told me he saw his staff and clients differently. “Maybe I try to see them as God sees them.”

Hey, Houston, EfM is a way for TEC to land and to honor its own resolution.

Besides brochures we made book marks with contact information and EfM’s purpose and mission:

LIFELONG CHRISTIAN
FORMATION GIVE US
STURDY LEGS AS WE
ENGAGE THE WORLD.

EFM GIVES US
CONFIDENCE TO SPEAK
GRACEFULLY ABOUT OUR
RELIGION’S VALUE

EfM Coordinators:
    Lyn Brakeman:lyngbrakeman@gmailcom, 978-314-7763
    Dick Simeone: sim6366@gmail.com, 978-314-7762