Reflections on Christian Formation

Of Forms and Formation (Article for October Newsletter)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God —what is good and acceptable and perfect.  – Romans 12:2

As this edition of the parish newsletter reaches you, formation programs for children and youth will already have gotten underway.  Later in October, our Sunday morning forums will resume with an offering directed toward those who are newer to The Episcopal Church, as well as those who are just interested in learning more and perhaps renewing knowledge that may have been forgotten.   Look for more information on our “Your Faith, Your Life” series elsewhere in this newsletter.

I was interested to note that one of the things the Vestry highlighted in its explanation to you of my call to become your new rector was what was called my “cradle to grave” vision of Christian education, or what I like to call formation.  What the Vestry saw as my vision in that regard is rooted in a conviction that at every stage of our lives, we encounter the mystery of God, the mystery of the sacred, in new ways.  At times, our lives shift to such a degree that we lose any sense of God at all for a while.  At other times, we feel so connected to God’s presence that it almost takes our breath away.  Most of the time, we are somewhere in between.  My hope and my vision is that we can begin to create opportunities for Christian formation that meet people where they are, and support them as they journey into deeper, newer places.

The reason I prefer the term formation to education is that the idea of being formed and transformed is exceedingly open-ended.  It implies, for me, an unfolding process of discovery that happens both individually and in community, and whose possibilities and depths are limitless.  It implies that we are being shaped by encounters with God and with one another, and it implies that the journey we are on is really less about acquiring knowledge and more about living into a relationship with the Holy.

Frannie, Beth and I are beginning a conversation together about opportunities for formation at Trinity Parish.  Some of that discussion has involved instituting an evening program every week, and some of it has involved the idea of beginning some small group work after the first of the year.  We are even beginning to speak about the use of web-based resources.  Things are percolating, you might say, and I am excited about what will be bubbling up.

One thing about Christian formation, though:  it is most definitely a team and fully participatory activity!  We can offer, but ultimately it is up to each one of us to decide whether those opportunities are worth our time.  I hope you will decide that they are, not only for yourself but for your children, if you still have children at home.   School is important, sports are important, all kinds of activities are important – family is definitely important.  The soul and the spirit are also important.  We live in a society that is uncertain and unskilled about soul and spirit – but we are inheritors of an ancient wisdom tradition that can shed light on them both.

Stay tuned, and pray and think about making room in your life for soul-work.

Peace and blessings,

Matthew+

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