Mid-August found me on a working retreat with a ministry team I participate in each year. (In fact, I was on that very retreat when this article was due!) The ministry team’s main purpose is organizing an annual “Learning Ministries Day,” which takes place in eastern Pennsylvania on the last Saturday in January. The January 27, 2024
event will be in Wyomissing, which actually brings it closer to central Pennsylvania. I’m excited the next “Learning Ministries Day” will be nearby because I hope it makes it possible for people from our own Millcreek Lutheran Church to participate and see part of the work I do beyond our own congregation. I will be sure to publicize the information!
I continue to work with this ministry team because, not only do I like to be part of a big well-organized event, but also because it brings me closer to the work of learning and teaching. The church has had a variety of ways to speak of this important work over the years—Sunday School; Christian Education; and, most recently, Faith Formation. These all had their own place in the Sunday morning schedule of even the smallest congregations for many years. Keeping that place has become more challenging in recent years. For a variety of reasons, people are less able to spend all of Sunday morning at church.
The church—including the ministry team I work with—has tried to find ways to address this challenge. Some work better than others. The way I emphasize faith formation is by incorporating learning and teaching into weekly worship. That is the place in which the greatest number of our members are present and allows all of us to benefit from hearing the same information. My hope is that small bits of information shared in context make the information memorable with the result being that our faith is formed for use outside of the worship time. We can then build on that through other opportunities that fit the more “traditional” mold—like Sunday School, which our congregation is still blessed to have.
It seems to me that small bits of information in context are also a good way to shape
the experience of prayer, which also happens both inside and outside of worship.
Prayer is another way God forms our faith, but people very frequently say, “I don’t
know what to pray!” Yet, we all clearly have many experiences throughout the day.
Each of these can be an opportunity both to speak to God and to allow God to speak to
us. What is especially good about that from the standpoint of both faith formation and
Lutheran theology is that God both hears us and responds to us. God acts. We learn.
We learn more about how to be in relationship to God and to those around us. That, by
the way, is also what worship is designed to do. To keep us in relationship to God and
those around us. Keeping that in mind teaches us that the thread of faith runs through
all that we do and allowing God to teach us while allowing ourselves to be taught
truly matters. It is a lesson we never stop learning.
Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise