Reading the Gospel of Matthew with Deirdre Good (Fall 2019)
Class 3: Discipleship & Community; Trial, Death & Resurrection
Matthew & Parables: https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/parables-of-jesus
Menu for Adult Formation
When you plan adult formation for your congregation, create options. Think in terms of a Menu for Adult Formation. Have goals and a big picture.
It's important to think about: Why does formation matter? Formation should be more than just information-sharing. In the words of Bishop Jeff Lee, who spoke to the Maine clergy, "Formation is about conversion. It's about having your heart broken ... It's about feeding and nurturing people."
It's important to ask: What are our goals for this year? One church answered this by saying: "Our goals for adult formation are: half-way decent biblical literacy, basic theology and to enable everyone to tell their own story in a way that's authentic and inviting." Another group said: "Our goal is for everyone to know the arc of the biblical story, to connect it with your own life stories, to see God's activity in your life and to be comfortable talking about it."
Also think about: Who comes to formation programs? If the same dozen people will come regardless of what you offer or what name you give it, then the real question for your church is: How do we reach everyone else?
It's important to think about more than just classes and programs. To borrow a phrase from Rev. Tim Schenk, the heart of the next question is: What should be on our Formation Buffet?
Here are some ideas:
Formation programs - classes and events
Liturgy as formation
Reflecting together after activities.
Formation happens through all the communication you use - newsletters, bulletins, art, pictures on the walls.
Formation to go - at home use of websites
The Way of Love
The Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry are constantly adding resources to The Way of Love, Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life . These resources are eclectic and free.
More than a program or curriculum, The Way of Love is an intentional commitment to a set of practices –Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest – that form us into the likeness of Jesus. Congregations have engaged with Way of Love practices by organizing ministry fairs around the seven practices, setting up semi-public prayer stations with one station per practice, and organizing inquirer’s classes around each topic.
“The Way of Love is one pattern of living an intentional baptized life no matter your age.” says Jerusalem Greer. “Everyone, ages 5 to 95+, can live these practices in their own way in their everyday lives – not just on Sundays, which is one reason that Way of Love is a great fit for celebrations such as Back-2-School and Back to Ministry. These events remind us that following Jesus is a daily practice, rooted in each person’s unique story.”
There are resources available or planned for each season of the year, as well as some that can be used anytime.
General Way of Love materials
Here's where to find downloadable Way of Love materials (but not the materials for Advent). Or you can buy professionally printed tri-folds and wallet cards from Forward Movement. St. Luke's Cathedral sent the tri-fold in their 2018 stewardship mailing. St. Luke's and St. Mary in Falmouth are using the Reflection & Discernment handout as the basis for simple weekly adult discussions. In the words of one leader: "It gets people talking about their own experiences and sharing with each other."
Resources for Story Sharing
Sharing stories is natural for humans… It’s simple... It builds community within our churches and is a great way to share our faith with friends and family. And it’s not divisive because we rarely get into arguments about an experience. No wonder resources are popping up everywhere. Here are some good ones:
Our Story in God’s Story is a workshop on story sharing created by the Rev. Nancy Moore and used at Spring Training 2018. You could adapt it for an adult forum at your church.
The Living Local: Joining God teams from St. Mark’s in Waterville, St. Paul’s in Brunswick and St. Andrew’s in Newcastle developed questions to stimulate conversations during coffee hour and among parishioners. The provocative questions ranged from the fun (What was your weirdest job?) to the profound (Where have you noticed God?). They'd be happy to tell you more.
For a deep, twenty minute experience of sharing, look at the Living Local Story Sharing Experiment used last year at a Diocesan Council meeting. In it, people meet in pairs to tell about a time when you were aware of the presence of God.
If you want a strong, multi-week experience, check out Sacred Stories. It provides an opportunity for small, intimate groups to share their spiritual journeys - to tell their stories and to listen to others as they tell theirs. The article was written by Rev. Audrey Delafield at St. Alban's in Cape Elizabeth.
Ideas for Advent 2018
1. Advent Curriculum: Journeying the Way of Love - a new, four-week Advent curriculum pegged to readings and themes from the Sunday lectionary. Sessions are designed for use during the Christian formation hour offerings at churches and ministries exploring the Way of Love.
2. Journeying the Way of Love Advent Calendar
3. Fantastic Advent Bulletin Inserts for each of the four weeks of Advent - These enable everyone to take home ideas for practicing the Way of Love each day. Conveniently, there are seven Way of Love practices and seven days in the week.
All are available here.
The Episcopal Church Foundation has a list of ten recommended resources for Advent 2017, which are still useful.
Buildfaith.org contains a wealth of resources for kids and adults. Sponsored by Virginia Theological Seminary which is an Episcopal seminary, its moto is: Equip. Teach. Form. Resources for Disciples of All Ages. The whole site is worth checking out. You'll find Advent Resources if you click on the box entitled Seasonal Resources.
The Text this Week - This website is full of resources for liturgical, sermon and lectionary help. It's a clearinghouse of information from many different denominations. Here's the page for Advent.
A Thrill of Hope (Advent) and What Wondrous Love (Lent) use the artwork of John August Swanson, the reflections of several Bible scholars, music and hymnody to invite participants to delve deeper into Gospel readings for those seasons. DVDs with study guides are available from Cokesbury. from the Rev. Nancy Moore at Christ Church, Norway, and Trinity Lutheran, South Paris 2014
Books Featured at Spring Training 2018
American Nations by Colin Woodward – the eleven rival regional cultures of North America will help you to understand our country.
Grateful by Diana Butler Bass – Gratitude as a spiritual practice.
The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr – This beautifully written book can change your understanding of God and is great for a church book study.
Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu – “Archbishop Tutu retells more than fifty of his most beloved Bible stories, artfully highlighting God’s desire for all people to love one another.”
The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister- “This book invites us to embrace older age as a natural part of life that is both active and contemplative.”
Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones - Dreamland tells interwoven stories of entrepreneurial heroin importers, big pharma and the human lives on all sides of the opioid epidemic. A compelling book.
Ideas for anytime
Sacred Stories provides an opportunity for small, intimate groups to share their spiritual journeys - to tell their stories and to listen to others as they tell theirs. Read more here. from the Audrey Delafield at St. Alban's in Cape Elizabeth
Maine Chapter of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross Do you long to deepen your prayer life? Do you have a heart for social justice? Are you a seeker of peace and reconciliation within yourself and those around you? Then the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC) might be just what you are looking for. The Companions are eager to share the riches of their prayer, service and community. Learn more here.
Ideas for Lent 2018
"So much of our stress and anxiety derives from our pollution of Time. God has given us the gift of time, and called it holy, yet we often experience time as a curse," say the Brothers of SSJE. Join the Brothers in rediscovering time as a gift. This series is highly recommended by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry of St. Thomas Camden, who says "I can’t recommend this enough. It is the one Lenten series that parishioners still remember, and ask if we can repeat. It seems that we all have trouble with finding Time. This Lent, try and slow the pace of our hectic lives with this great series, so it’s possible to become aware of how the Eternal is breaking through to us."
Other shared ideas
ChurchNext like a Netflix of Episcopal Christian formation resources. They offer hundreds of online presentations on topics like scripture, liturgy, prayer, self-care, church histroy, theology, etc. People can watch at home or together. Ten churches in our diocese experimented in 2015 through a discounted joint subscription, and two of them renewed their subscriptions. Read more here.
Tea Time for the Soul is a monthly discussion group in which focuses on an interesting article, object or scripture story, and also includes a deeper purpose and other features. Read more here. from Margaret Reimer and St. Peter's in Bridgton 2015
Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World by Michael Battle. This evocative book is about the reconciliation that occurs when we affirm that God is present and acting in the midst of tragedy. Preview the book at Amazon. from the Rev. Nina Pooley at St. Bartholomew's in Yarmouth 2014
Offering our questions to God in the offering plate is how one church built its formation program and helped folks to understand that questions can be offerings. Read more here. from the Rev. Kelly Moughty at St. Alban's in Cape Elizabeth 2014
Embracing an Alternative Orthodoxy: Richard Rohr on the Legacy of St. Francis - was disappointing. Find out why here. from the Rev. Nathan Ferrell at St. Mary in Falmouth 2014