As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
As the Psalmist says, there is a great thirst in the human soul
for connection with the Divine, for a deeper relationship with God.
It is through this deepening relationship with God
that Christians experience transformation
from lives focused elsewhere
to lives of loving God and all of God’s creation,
including others and ourselves.
The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee
For many, many years Adult Christian Formation has been a jewel in Plymouth’s crown of ministries. The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee served as our Adult Director of Christian Formation for eleven years before going back into full-time pastoral ministry in June 2020. Before him came the Rev. Julie Mavity-Maddelena and Alice Clark. Robust Adult Christian Formation has been vital at Plymouth since way before Rev. Hal Chorpenning became Senior Minister and that was 20 years ago now! It is a hallmark of our faith community of worship, learning and service.
When Mark Lee left us, it was the height of the pandemic lockdown. All of the Adult Formation programming was on Zoom: Zoom Adult Forums on Sunday mornings and Zoom study groups during the week. At that time, Plymouth added 8 hours to my 20 hour a week schedule to lead adult formation study group programming. Hal took on staff liaison work with the Visiting Scholar Team. We have been attempting to fill Mark’s shoes ever since. Big shoes to fill! Mark was paid for 16 hours a week; but I know he regularly put in 20, at least. Hal and I do not have an extra 10 hours a piece on top of ministerial duties. Still, Plymouth managed to keep things going throughout these crazy years of pandemic programming, even hosting two wonderful Visiting Scholar weekends on Zoom in 2020-2021. We made it through because of so many lay volunteers. MANY, MANY THANKS
As most of you know, I will be retiring from parish ministry at the end of February 2023. And I want to leave Plymouth with the infrastructure for continuing its long-standing, robust Adult Christian Formation programming. At this point, our staffing plans at Plymouth do not include another Director of Adult Christian Formation due to budget concerns. Our ministerial staff will be back to two full-time ministers after I leave and there is no room in their job portfolios for hands-on adult formation leadership.
So …. what is up with Adult Formation programming now?! We are rebuilding!
How will it continue? With the guidance of the Christian Formation Board and with YOUR HELP! Lay organizational leadership will be imperative to keep Adult Formation up and running. I am working with the CF Board to organize one new ministry team, reorganize another and support a third existing one so Adult Formation programming will continue with high standards even with less staff input. The two full-time ministers will be available for content consultation.
Here is the proposed plan:
And….plans are in the works for this coming fall. There will be Adult Forum and at least one study group on Sunday mornings and perhaps more study groups during the week. I am hoping to gather two groups at different times to study Brian McLaren’s new book, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, the Disillusioned. (I am almost finished with the book. It is inspiring and enlightening!) And Brian will be with those study groups for an hour of online consultation on Sunday afternoon, September 25! More on Brian McLaren and the fall Adult Formation programming in next week’s reflection! Stay tuned!
And with you on the journey,
* A Huge Thanks to all the volunteers who have sustained Adult Christian Formation since the pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Mea Culpa for anyone I forgot!!
2020-2021 Visiting Scholar Team
Pat Slentz, chair
Adult Forum Team
Book Study Volunteers
Sara and Peter Mullarkey
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. She will be retiring in February, 2023.
Please welcome Plymouth's new Director of Christian Formation for Children and Youth, Brooklyn McBride!
Brooklyn, a native of Fort Collins, is a graduate of CSU with a BA in Journalism and Media Communication. She is currently pursuing her Master of Divinity degree in the online program of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Brooklyn brings to Plymouth experience in youth ministry and family ministries development along with her work experience in media, communications, and drama. She also brings her guitar and experience in worship leadership.
Brooklyn was outstanding among the candidates we interviewed, not only for her intellect, her great love of learning and her organization/planning gifts, but even more for her love of people, particularly those on the margins, such as LGBTQ+ youth, and her love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As you get to know her, you will find that she is bubbly and fun as well as extremely thoughtful and an excellent listener. Brooklyn is married to Michael McBride, an apprentice electrician here in Fort Collins. They have two dogs, Diego, their big, lovable German shepherd mix and Teddy, their 8 week old, Briard-doodle puppy.
Please join the Christian Formation Board and Search Team in welcoming Brooklyn to Plymouth on Sunday, Sept. 19 after services.
Hal Chorpenning, Sr. Minister
Bruce Ronda, Leadership Council Moderator
Bending Toward Justice
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ― Howard Thurman
Welcome back to Plymouth after a summer of travel and fun. Welcome back, even in the midst of the uncertainty of Delta variant viruses and continued social distancing and masks! Welcome back, whether you can meet with us in person to worship, or whether you are joining us through livestream!
As our bridge pastor, Rev. Ron Patterson, challenged us on August 22nd: we are the church, God’s gathered and beloved community, whether we are in the meeting house and sanctuary building or not. We are the church of Jesus, the liberator and redeemer, our model for inclusion and justice, wherever we find ourselves in the world. We meet in worship for sustenance and inspiration to be the church in the world. Our faith awakens and enlivens us in good times and tough times. As Christian theologian and minister, educator and mystic, Howard Thurman, wrote, “the world needs … people who have come alive!”
Christian Formation is alive and well at Plymouth as we begin fall programming. There will be outside, intergenerational Sunday School activities for children, teens and families starting at 10 am on September 12 on the Plymouth lawn. (And running into October as the weather allows.) We will explore together through activities and crafts Bible stories that prompt us to ask “Who Are Our Neighbors?” At 10 am adults can join the Adult Forum sessions that will be in the Forum Room. We are hoping to live stream the Forums in some way (maybe on Zoom), and possibly link them to the Fireside Room for overflow seating, so we can remain socially distanced.
To join in being alive in the world with God’s justice and love, I hope you will consider joining one of our two adult book studies that begin in September.
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series.
God, Do I Need This Job?
Please hear I'm singing a variant of "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line. In that musical, all of the actors desperately needed a job and were singing and dancing their hearts out. I, however, was assumed to be retired and was minding my own business when Jane Anne called. Would I be the interim Children’s Minister?
My husband raised his eyebrows. We are still settling into retirement and we know we love to hike on weekdays when trails, and parking lots, are not so crowded. What would a return to work for me look like?
But I was CALLED. if you hang around church much, you know being “called” has an additional meaning besides picking up a phone.
Children’s Christian education is what i have done for a long time. And one of my earliest memories is singing “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam.” Yeah, that one hasn’t been on any charts for a long time; but it may have been my first call.
I’ve been a Director of Children’s Ministries for over 12 years in Texas and 4 years in Colorado. I was the interim at Plymouth for 9 months before Mandy arrived. I’ve taught at Plymouth and served on Christian Formation. Some of you might recognize me as the woman helping dress the kids for children’s Christmas Eve service.
So assuming I get get around the technological hurdles -- and for me they look like Long’s Peak -- why would I want this job?
I feel like there are so many possibilities for faith formation in the home that were not there when our children were small. My dad died when our son was five, and the only thing out there was The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. That left both of us cold, and was pretty short on theology. I’d like to act as a sieve for all the faith forming materials that are available now. Each month I can share a few, praying that I can help share the faith in the right size bits for you to feed your family at the best time.
Occasionally I’d like to do a Children’s Moment in worship.
Church is on a slippery slope. Will it survive? Let’s work together to make it so.
Tricia is returning to the interim position she held between Plymouth directors Sarah Wernsing and Mandy Hall. After leaving the Plymouth staff, she served as director of Children’s Ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal for four years. Before moving to Ft. Collins with her husband Jim, she was Director of Children’s Ministries at the University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. Read more.
Did you ever wonder where the adult Sunday School classes and Forums came from? You know that each Sunday during the Education For All Hour we offer a variety of opportunities for adults, as well as a full complement of children’s and youth classes. There are generally two “Study Groups,” classes that run usually for six weeks, and a “Forum," where the program changes weekly.
The Forums are a longstanding tradition at Plymouth. For the last couple of years, we have aimed to build them around a monthly theme. So while each session stands alone, a person benefits from attending all the programs during a month. Ideally, the first week of the month we lay a theological foundation for the ensuing weeks. Why is this topic important to discuss at church? What are concepts or values from our theological toolkit of scripture, tradition, and contemporary spiritual reflection that help us address this set of issues? How does discussing this issue in our community of faith differ than if we were discussing the same issue at the Rotary Club? Then the ensuring weeks we dig deeper into the issue, often bringing in speakers from the wider community. We almost always have time for questions and discussion in the class, to hone our understandings. The Forum is at the west end of the building towards the memorial garden and labyrinth, through the art gallery.
The Forums are planned by the Forum Ministry Team. The church staff annually sketches out the monthly topics, and the ministry team fills in the detailed programs. They meet roughly monthly to flesh out the programs. There is often a lot of creative discussion about how to approach a topic, and then a lot of brainstorming about appropriate resource people. The team is currently pretty small –- Ken Freese, Bruce Rhonda and Ken Klopenstein -– so would love to have some others join them (particularly some women and some younger people!). See any of them or me if you’re curious about our work or want to join.
The other two offerings each week we call “Study Groups.” These generally run for six weeks, and use a variety of resources for content. Often there are books to read and discuss, sometimes they use video or web based curricula, or a class built around presentations and guest speakers, so the format varies widely. We work to have balance between three broad areas: spiritual, personal and social. Some topics are “spiritual” broadly construed –- theology, Bible, spiritual practices, or church life. Some topics are “personal” -– for example, relationships, parenting, recovery, or aging. And others are “social” – economics, environment, politics or social justice issues. I like to have co-leaders, or even a small team, to lead these classes, which provides coverage for absence and different teaching/learning styles. One of the classes is in the North Adult Ed Room, the first room on the left as you go down the north hallway; and the other is in the Fireside Room (which also houses our renewed library, watch for its grand opening for circulation!) east of the Fellowship Hall, with entrances off the front lobby.
While once upon a time there was a monthly committee meeting to plan these classes, for the last several years we have found that having an annual half day workshop works better. People who have an idea for a class they’d like to offer, and people who want to help shape our offerings, gather together. They consider ideas people bring (and I bring a variety of other options to help prime the pump), give-and-take, pray, talk about the needs of the congregation, prioritize and work out the schedule for the coming program year. This year’s workshop, to plan the 2018-19 year, is Saturday, May 5 from 10 am to 3 pm in the Forum Room. We’ll have a light lunch together; if you’d like to participate in this workshop, please RSVP to me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
All these programs are in our Education For All Hour, from 10:00 – 10:50 a.m. between our two worship services. An ongoing issue is being able to begin the classes and Forum on time, which trims our “50 minute hour” to 45 or even less. That makes it hard to do justice to the material, and does not respect the time and commitment of outside speakers who have come to present for us. So I’d encourage you to be on time. If you’ve come to the 9:00 a.m. worship service, move with all due speed from worship to class. (And encourage your children to do likewise.) This will enable everyone to get maximum benefit from the classes.
One potential remedy for this challenge is for us to increase opportunities outside the traditional Sunday School hour. I would love to see us offer classes on a weekday evening, where there would be an hour-and-a-half together. This would let us explore material in more depth, and develop groups with greater trust and intimacy with greater potential for transformation. Talk to me, or the chair of the Christian Formation Board, Mari Strombom-Johnson if you’d like to explore expanding our offerings.
I love that Plymouth is a community that values adult learning. The Formation Board explicitly includes adults in its mission, and we believe that Christian learning, growth and action (in other words, “Formation”) takes place throughout our entire life cycle. The board’s mission statement provides a great summary of what we want to accomplish through these programs:
Rooted in the progressive Christian tradition of the U.C.C., the Christian Formation Board and its ministries teach, challenge, and equip Plymouth's worshiping community of children, youth, and adults to develop a lifelong transforming relationship with God that inspires action towards peace and justice for all of creation.
Rev. Dr. Mark Lee
Director of Christian Formation (Adults)
The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee brings a passion for Christian education that bears fruit in social justice. He has had a lifelong fascination with theology, with a particular emphasis on how Biblical hermeneutics shape personal and political action. Read more about Mark.