For families, it’s back-to-school season! You’ll see them in the stores – harried parents and children with supply lists in hand, wondering whether to buy wide or college ruled paper, or how many dry erase markers the teacher needs. Most of us remember those days when we were kids – wanting summer to last but also excited to wear that new pair of shoes or open a new box of markers. The start of every school year holds new promise. As we get ready for this new school year to begin, we also prepare for a new year of Christian Formation.
In the Episcopal Church, we use the term Christian Formation instead of education, because we recognize that allowing ourselves to be formed as disciples of Christ is a lifelong process – one that includes learning to be sure – about our scriptures, the history of the church, and our sacraments. But if we stop there, we become only knowledgeable, we do not become changed. In her upcoming book Love First, Collette Potts sums it up perfectly: “Despite calling it ‘Sunday School,’ the philosophy is that it’s not school at all. It’s the portion of the church where some of our most gifted ministers gather to pray and learn and share. It’s not a children’s ministry, it’s the children’s ministry: where the children’s ability to minister to others is encouraged and nurtured, and where they learn about their capacity to relieve the suffering of others; guided to this holy place by other ministers, their teachers.”
At its best, a Children’s Formation gathering is a place where children can bring their full experience –everything that delights and frightens them – and discover that God is present in all of it. They learn this in the stories they hear, in the kindness of their leaders, in the community of friends as they wonder together about the scriptures, and in their communal prayers. They discover that in Jesus they have a shepherd who knows them completely, and not only accepts them, but also softens them by the Holy Spirit to love and accept themselves and others. A culture of empathy and compassion is fostered in the small gathering, which extends to the whole church, and to the world.
This is our vision as we offer Weaving God’s Promises, a new Children’s Formation program for children in grades 3 through 5. This Episcopal curriculum is organized in a three-year cycle – Weaving Our Faith, Weaving Together the Family of God, and Weaving God’s Beloved Community. Drawing from the best of both Godly Play and Youth Ministry, these in-between years will be rich with learning, holy conversation, prayer, community, fun, and of course, love.
Our Formation year begins Sunday, August 26. Please register new children for Sunday School here. Newcomers and friends are always welcome.