I have a confession. I am a teacher. That may not sound like a statement that needs to be “confessed” but I’m not saying this because I am ashamed. It’s more of an affirmation and it’s a statement about which I am very proud because it took me years to recognize the gifts God has given me. I had often been a bit envious of people who could declare with confidence “I am a …” (fill in the blank). Oh, I was sure of things I liked to do and maybe even some days I could admit that I was good at something but to say “I am…” I just didn’t have it in me!! To the casual observer, this might sound odd. I worked in patient education as a registered nurse, I taught Sunday school, I home-schooled my three children. But to say “I am a teacher” required a level of understanding I didn’t have. It wasn’t until I began on my journey to discover how God might use me for God’s mission that my confidence began to grow. I began to see my abilities as a gift for ministry. While I would acknowledge that this journey truly began at my Baptism some 63 years ago, it wasn’t until I started intentionally working toward recognizing God’s gifts in my life about 9 years ago that the pieces began to fit together.
How does this relate to our resolutions and this blog? I’m glad you asked! This past Wednesday evening about 100 people gathered at the Cathedral Church of St Paul to celebrate the accomplishments of participants and teachers in the Whitaker Institute’s many programs designed to train the people in our diocese to respond to God’s call. We shared a lovely time of worship with Bishop Gibbs presiding at Holy Eucharist and the Rev Susie Shaefer preaching. Then we moved to Barth Hall for a delicious catered dinner and the presentation of certificates and awards. We congratulated students completing the Preaching Licensure Class, the Worship Leader Class and Exploring Your Spiritual Journey. And, all of these programs are directly related to both the Canons of our Church and a resolution from the 2012 General Convention. I’ll admit, until recently I hadn’t carefully read our Constitution and Canons but an on-line course I’ve been taking prompted me to investigate. Canon III.1.1 requires that “Each diocese shall make provision for the affirmation and development of the ministry of all baptized persons, including:
- Assistance in understanding that all baptized persons are called to minister in Christ’s name, to identify their gifts with the help of the Church and to serve Christ’s mission at all times and in all places.
- Assistance in understanding that all baptized persons are called to sustain their ministries through commitment to life-long Christian formation.”
Did you know it said that? I sure didn’t! And this is precisely what we were doing Wednesday evening – honoring those who have taken their life-long formation seriously and have been seeking to discern God’s gifts to use for God’s service.
The resolution from our last General Convention asks us to commend the work done by those agencies that support continuing Christian formation:
A046: Commend Continued Development of Lifelong Christian Formation
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention commend FORMA, formerly the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors (NAECED) for their work in developing and supporting lifelong Christian Formation in The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commend the ministry of Christian formation and education leaders in The Episcopal Church for continuing to lift up The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation adopted at the 76th General Convention and the importance of inviting, inspiring, and transforming people in the Christian faith as well as the continued development of training for leaders of the Church; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commend to all dioceses and congregations the use of online Christian formation and leadership certifications as well as other forms of continuing education for Christian educators; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commend the work of FORMA, formerly NAECED in continuing to develop the Certificate in Leadership for Lifelong Christian Formation (CLLCF); and, the programs of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary, the Certificate Program in Christian Education at the Seminary of the Southwest, the Certificate in the Spiritual Guidance of Children at the General Theological Seminary, and other recognized entities for offering continuing education opportunities and certification for those called to the ministry of Christian formation; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commend the Formation and Vocation Offices of The Episcopal Church in actively collaborating and serving as a resource as needed for the appropriate development and promotion of these certificate programs.
During our Eucharist, we remembered the Martyrs of Uganda – a commemoration that might not seem at all celebratory for our occasion! But Rev. Shaefer reminded us in her sermon that the martyrs didn’t merely teach us how to die, but rather taught us how to live by moving beyond fear to a life of faith. Knowing who we are in Christ and stepping out to use the gifts God has given is one way we can live lives of faith and demonstrate that we are followers of Jesus. Discernment is part of every Christian’s call! And our own Whitaker Institute is here to help each one of us in this task.
There’s room for everyone in the Whitaker classes. And, if you’re not sure of where you belong, give Eric Williams, Whitaker’s Director a call and he will gladly discuss the best plan for you. Check out the information in this year’s brochure: http://www.edomi.org/edomi/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2015-16-brochure-update.pdf
What are your gifts? How is God using you in service to all God’s beloved children? Maybe next year, we can celebrate your completion of a Whitaker class and affirm your ministry. We’d be delighted to join you!!
Let us pray –
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole
body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified:
Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before
you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation
and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council