This morning when I opened Facebook, I was greeted by this memory from 4 years ago: “Last class of EYSJ today for all my Diocese of Michigan friends out there. We ended with a beautiful Eucharist together. It’s been a long 9 months but worth every minute of every long drive, sometimes tedious assignments, and every anxious moment. I made some amazing friends as we have been traveling this journey of discernment together – and I hope they will remain part of my life for the years to come!! Let me recommend this course to anyone who might like to deepen their walk with our God!!!! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!!!” Granted, I went a little overboard with the exclamation marks but it was a very special time, indeed. How timely that sentiment is today since we celebrated this year’s Exploring Your Spiritual Journey graduates just last night at the Cathedral.
After participating in this 9-month long course of discernment, I was blessed to serve as the lay facilitator for EYSJ for the next 2 years – and I feel just as strongly about the program now as I did then. The process of discernment is lifelong; it is a journey that may make twists and turns but really never ends if we are open to the Spirit’s work in our lives. Believing I can grow to become more and more Christ-like and more aware of how I might serve God best gives me hope for the future. And that’s what Lifelong Christian Formation is all about. One of the Bible verses that I hold onto comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 13b – 14, NRSV). Christian formation is that pressing on to what God has for us now and in the future.
In 2009, our General Convention passed a resolution urging the Church to adopt The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation and at last summer’s General Convention in Salt Lake City, we passed Resolution A078:
A078: Reaffirm The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation
Resolved, That the 78th 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 as Resolution A082 at the 76th General Convention; and the importance of inviting, inspiring, and transforming all people, lay and ordained, in the Christian Faith as well as the continued development of training for leaders of the Church; and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses and congregations adopt The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation and annually review the ways in which their Christian Formation ministries reflect and embody The Charter.
The Charter For
Lifelong Christian Formation
Lifelong Christian Faith Formation in The Episcopal Church is
Lifelong growth in the knowledge, service and love of God
as followers of Christ and is
informed by Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
I have called you friends. John 15:14-16
Through The Episcopal Church, God Invites all people:
- To enter into a prayerful life of worship, continuous learning, intentional outreach, advocacy and service.
- To hear the Word of God through scripture, to honor church teachings, and continually to embrace the joy of Baptism and Eucharist, spreading the Good News of the risen Christ and ministering to all.
- To respond to the needs of our constantly changing communities, as Jesus calls us, in ways that reflect our diversity and cultures as we seek, wonder and discover together.
- To hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people, placing ourselves in the stories of our faith, thereby empowering us to proclaim the Gospel message.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. John 15:14-16
Through the Episcopal Church, God Inspires all people:
- To experience Anglican liturgy, which draws us closer to God, helps us discern God’s will and encourages us to share our faith journeys.
- To study Scripture, mindful of the context of our societies and cultures, calling us to seek truth anew while remaining fully present in the community of faith.
- 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.
- To prepare for a sustainable future by calling the community to become guardians of God’s creation.
I am giving you these commands that you may love one another. John 15:17
Through the Episcopal Church, God Transforms all people:
- By doing the work Jesus Christ calls us to do, living into the reality that we are all created in the image of God and carrying out God’s work of reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace.
- 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.
- By seeking out diverse and expansive ways to empower prophetic action, evangelism, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context.
- By holding all accountable to lift every voice in order to reconcile oppressed and oppressor to the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christian Faith Formation in The Episcopal Church is a lifelong journey with Christ, in Christ, and to Christ.
I think last night’s annual Whitaker Celebration provides evidence that, as a diocese, we do support lifelong Christian formation. Seeing the many graduates of our Preaching Licensure and Worship Licensure classes, as well as those who completed the year-long EYSJ course provides ample evidence that this is a priority for us. And, besides those present last night, we have a group of students who are committed to the three-year course of study at the Academy for Vocational Leadership. I am particularly excited about a new offering called Epiphanies which is bringing in three different well-known Christian speakers throughout the year beginning with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers in September. I have been wanting to read her book Radical Welcome so I now have put it on my summer reading list that I might have a better context in which to learn from her this fall. You can get more information about this series at – http://epiphaniesspeakers.wix.com/epiphanies
We are, indeed, fortunate to have so many opportunities to learn and grow. Check out all the offerings of the Whitaker Institute here to find the class that will best encourage your journey with God – http://www.edomi.org/whitakerinstitute/resources-for-adult-education/ That link will also direct you to information about classes that are available online or at other locations as they come up. It’s sort of “one stop shopping” for all your formation needs! You can also sign up to receive a monthly newsletter which will keep you informed of all the wonderful possibilities that Whitaker has to offer. Just scroll down at this link to sign up – http://www.edomi.org/whitakerinstitute/
Merely attending classes will not fulfill all of the points of The Charter; living into The Charter is a lifestyle. As we are transformed through God’s grace and the knowledge we receive, we must then take what we learn and go out to witness and serve and love where God calls. I am excited by the possibilities. Are you?
Let us pray –
Almighty and eternal God, so draw my heart to you, so
guide my mind, so fill my imagination, so control my will, that I may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto
you; and then use me, I pray, as you will, and always
to your glory and the welfare of your people; through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ The Rev Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee