You may have noticed over the last few years that we’ve shifted the language we use to describe how we learn, grow and thrive in faith. Once called “Christian Education,” we now use the term “Christian Formation.” It moves us away from a focus on beliefs and solely cerebral activities towards an understanding of Christian growth rooted in the whole person. As the great commandment says, we come to “love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.” Theological information is still vital, but it is not the only driver of growth; we need to feel, relate, and act. Human personhood is multifaceted, so how we are nurtured, the way we are shaped, the way we are formed into the fullness of mature faith uses many tools. Hence, Christian Formation helps our life in Christ to thrive.
At Plymouth, we also have the gift of permission to try new things. Some wag said that the “Last 7 Words of the Church” are “But we’ve always done it this way!” Familiar ways of doing something like Sunday School are actually pretty recent history. “Sunday school” as general education for children working in factories began in the 1780s. But it was only in the early 20th century that it became the primary engine of Christian education connected with Sunday morning church, dropping the reading, writing and arithmetic. So we count ourselves quite free to innovate with the hour between services we have designated for Formation, and also to extend Formation programs to other times and places. We can discover fresh ways to thrive in our faith!
All through the month of November, we will experiment with different ways of growing in faith, keyed to the theme of Thrive and informed by Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” These experiences are designed so you can drop into them after coming from Totenfest, enjoying the Pie Potluck, or shopping at the Alternative Giving Fair. There are different activities in each room:
• Labyrinth: The outdoor labyrinth is open to walk, meditate, and enjoy (bundle up if the weather is bad).
• Forum Room: A different video (about 15 minutes) each week on various life-and-faith topics, by Rob Bell, followed by discussion. Video starts at 10:20 a.m.
• North Adult Ed Room: A quiet place for meditation, curated by the Centering Prayer and Healing Prayer groups.
• Club 45 Room: Honoring the Cloud of Witnesses. A place to consider the people who have formed your life journey, thanking God for their impact on you, by writing and drawing.
• Fireside Room: Poem Scrabble, playing with Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”
• Sprouts Room (starting Nov. 11): Faith is a Growing Thing. Plant seeds in small pots to grow in a sunny place at home, and consider the spirituality of nurturing life.
• North Room (starting Nov. 18): Make an Advent Box for your family to prepare for Christmas.
To help you keep track of your travels through the building and month, use the Passport we will make available at a table in the Fellowship Hall. As you complete each spiritual practice, get a stamp in your passport. Yes, this is inspired by the Pilgrim Passport of the Camino de Santiago. Get four stamps and at the end of the month, turn it in to get a fun prize!
One of the great gifts that Church provides is the opportunity for intergenerational learning. These spiritual practices are designed for all ages, and we encourage children to go through the month accompanied by their favorite adults. Parents, grand-parents, gay uncle-recruited-for-the-occasion, all will be blessed by the chance to engage these activities together with children. Some will even lend themselves to use at home later on.
In these conflicted times, we need to tap into all sorts of different spiritual resources. I trust you will find these experiences helpful. I am writing this before going to the vigil in Old Town for the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. And as I reviewed yet again Maya Angelou’s poem, this stanza stood out to me:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Rev. Dr. Mark Lee
The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee,