Friday, June 13, 2008

Intro to Christian Ed

Once again, I am teaching. Yeah!
Once again, I am teaching something I have had no formal training in. Yeah!

I was (and am) happy to have the opportunity to teach for the Southwest Ohio district ministry classes. As usual, it happens to be something that I, myself, did not go to school for. That's ok. I imagine most professors are making up most of their stuff too. I'm teaching Introduction to Christian Education. Fortunately, unlike physical science, I do not have to take another certification test in order to teach this.

I went online and found 4 or 5 different CE syllabus from different Methodist, Nazarene schools and cobbled together my own working bibliography and outline for the class.

The truth is, education seems to get relegated to the side lines in favor of more attention getting ministry endeavors -- preaching, music, etc.

Walter Bruggeman has said, “Every community that wants to last beyond a single generation must concern itself with education.” That's must be true not just for a faith community, but it is particularly true.

I think the most liberating thing for me was realizing that education in the faith takes place everywhere in the church -- but we need to be aware and intentional about it. I figured this out at St. Paul's in Kansas City. I was trying to acclimate myself to my new associate pastor position, really understanding what that meant for my call and that local community. I read Educating Congregations by Charles R. Foster. He talked about creating events within the life of the church that form and transform. Just as the Passover recalls the Exodus story in vivid chewy details, a local faith community must recall and recreate the moments in their journey that made and make them who they are.

When I figured this out, it opened up new horizons for purpose in what we did and what we said. Just a few opportunities I had in the time I was there - a series of worship banners and paraments for the entire church year, fellowship infused with meaning (St. Patrick's Day cabbage and corned beef, Shrove Tuesday pancakes, etc.), Remember your Baptism video (including people from our church telling their baptism stories), intergenerational and family events (marble tournament, Advent wreath making night), ministry to our local parish (Block Party, staff prayer as we walked around the blocks of our neighborhood), Covenant groups using Wesley's covenant questions, creating a multi-cultural Nativity set with Anglo shepherds, Asian and middle-Eastern wisemen, an African angel, and an Indian Mary. But the list could go on.

The thing that I remember about these community events and efforts were 1) their intentionality 2) the intergenerationality 3) their participation.

What Evan and I struggle with right now is the conviction that pastoral ministry is substantially different than any other job in the world. The time I need to spend in prayer, preparation and in activity is qualitatively and quantitatively different than a CEO, a lawyer, a teacher, doctor, or any other profession would need to spend doing what they do. Because we are not CEO's or business people, my bottom line is not money, or tasks completed, or even numbers people. It is lives.

And as Anna Carter Florence points out in her recent lectionary reflections, "Think about the ordination services you have taken part in, recently. Have Jesus’ words in this passage ever appeared in the liturgy? My job is to charge the newly ordained, so I charge you, our Associate Pastor for Christian Nurture here at First Church, to do four things: cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Start with the Sunday School and then go after the youth group."

I appreciate that.

For this is the essential nature of Christian education -- a growing knowledge of Christ so that we may actually become more like him. And Christ does not call any of us to a faith built upon the most gold stars for attendance, the longest most urgent prayers, or the most convincing argument for the world being made in seven days. Empty works, false piety, intellectual bullying are not faith.

Vital Christian faith comes in our being restored to his Image. Meaning and integration comes as we see Him in each other. We see the Holy Spirit at work in our own lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We can begin to name where God is among us. And where He still needs to come.

So that's what I have to say about CE right now. Where does CE take place in your local congregation? Is is "working" or isn't it? What events, outside the formal settings such as Sunday School or specific Bible study, does your community learn the faith?


Evan and Julia said...

Yeah, a MA in Theology: Church and Christian History and an undergrad degree in Education and Social Sciences doesn't count!


Marsha said...

First of all, whether you want to admit it our not you are a teacher. I remember my first teaching job. I soooo lied about my abilities. Sure I could teach middle school English, sure I could teach a section of business, sure I could teach typing after all I was good at these things. I think the first two years I simply stayed a few days ahead of the kids, but you know what? Some of my best teaching happened then--as we learned together, so cool now that I think about it.

"Vital Christian faith comes in our being restored to his Image. Meaning and integration comes as we see Him in each other. We see the Holy Spirit at work in our own lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We can begin to name where God is among us. And where He still needs to come."

This is an amazing insight. What is sometimes difficult is that we still try to quantify it. We look at others "ministry" and make judgment instead of seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the other--no matter how DIFFERENT it is from the work God is doing in us. Yes, Julia---I needed to read this today.
Thank you for your insight.