The bride of Christ has no business to be foolish.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I write my Epistle to you from Ephesus this month. Paul wrote several of his epistles from here. So it seems a propitious place.
I have been learning so much here this past week!!! I feel my faith renewed, informed, and energized. As I find myself feeling so en-couraged for life and mission, I want the same for you. Such learning is not a chore. It is an opportunity to live larger. It connects the head to the heart and the heart to the head. It knits us together and makes us whole. When Paul wrote to the Christians in this region, he said,
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ will give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better, . . . that you may know the hope to which he has called you.
Paul believes there are things we need to know in order to live the Christian life. He spent his life teaching people and writing to them about the things they needed to know. As he taught them the truths of the gospel, he was following in the steps of Jesus whose disciples called him “Rabboni” meaning “teacher. Jesus was a teacher.
He taught them many things by parables . . . Mark 4: 3
Wherever Jesus was the people flocked after him in crowds and he taught them. Mark 10: 1
Jesus went up to the temple courts and began to teach. John 7: 14
(Jesus’) disciples came to him and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1
To live the Christian life, there are things one needs to know. The Bible for example is worth knowing. All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3: 16
A funny thing happened to religion during its several waves of American revival movements. We got the notion that religion is a feeling. I call it “the gospel according to Barry Manilow.” But the father of American revivalism, Jonathan Edwards, explained in his Treatise on Religious Affections (Feelings) that feelings are good but they will not sustain faith. They are too unstable. Faith has a content we need to know if we are stand firm through life’s trials and tribulations.
I have been so very pleased to see a number of our congregations stepping up their Christian formation programs recently. I was delighted that Trinity made the number one qualification for their new rector that the priest be “a teacher.” I am inspired by the energy of the Pro/Claim program at Grace in the Desert. St. Thomas has an excellent on-going Bible Study. I had a great time recently doing a 2-hour survey of the Old Testament at Holy Spirit. St. Christopher’s has launched a new book group and St. Michael’s has been working with a new curriculum for adults. These are just a few examples of new learning springing up in Nevada.
There are other resources and opportunities. I would love to see some of our congregations try out one of the series from Animate, http://wearesparkhouse.org/adults/; or Embracing, https://www.churchpublishing.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=landingpage&pageID=34&categoryID=584; or Thoughtful Christians, http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/Downloadable-Studies.aspx.
I would love to see some of our congregational Bible Studies taking it a bit deeper with the help of the N. T. Wright For Everyone Series, http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=2180; or to see our congregations getting some basic introduction to the Episcopal Church through the Welcome To series, https://www.churchpublishing.org/products/index.cfm?fuseaction=productTag&tagID=22&categoryID=302.
For those who are ready to undertake a real commitment to Christian discipleship supported by a group of fellow disciples, I hope The Restoration Project will be a life-changer not only for the individuals but for the congregation. http://www.amazon.com/The-Restoration-Project-Christopher-Martin/dp/0880283688
If some of our parish educators, either clergy or lay, attend the Pneuma Conference this year, they may find yet more exciting options:
Pneuma Christian formation conference
at The Bishop’s Ranch in October
It’s time to gather your colleagues and register for the best annual Christian formation conference
this side of the Continental Divide, this year — for the first time ever — at The Bishop’s Ranch,
familiar to many in the Diocese of California, beginning Monday, October 12. This year’s Pneuma
(formerly Western Christian Educators) Conference features the teaching and worship gifts of
Eric Law with music leadership by Chris Studer. In addition, take advantage of a variety of
Christian formation workshops for experienced and new educators; hang out, hike, sing, and pray
with people who share your passion. Information and registration is available here, and
scholarship assistance is available from the Diocese of California Discipleship Ministries Working
Group; contact Julia McCray-Goldsmith, firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: Monday, October 12 to Thursday, October 15
Where: The Bishop’s Ranch, 5297 Westside Road, Healdsburg
Cost: $550 ($450 for dorm-style housing and $725 for single rooms, both limited so register soon)
Contact: Julia McCray-Goldsmith, email@example.com, 415.869.7826
Here in Nevada, we have labored under the weight of not having a formation program for clergy since we lost the regional vicars some years ago. But I am excited that, thanks to the work of Canon Catherine Gregg and the Rev. JoAnn Leach, we will soon be adopting a program for clergy formation.
Once that is done I hope on tiptoe with joyful expectation that we can turn our attention as a diocese to offering faith enrichment programs for all our people on a regular basis. But the real faith formation work is done in parishes, week by week. Many of our congregations have renewed that ministry, and they have stirred the holy curiosity of their people. I celebrate that curiosity because it is not just for the sake of knowing for knowing’s sake. It is knowing for the love of God and to equip us to do God’s work in the world.