A Reflection on Formation
By Beth Chestnut, Trinity Episcopal Church, Asheville
I just recently returned from the 80th anniversary of my childhood church, Braggtown Baptist in Durham, NC. It is hard to put into words what the sights, sounds, even smells of the church evoked in me!! I was literally saturated with memories. My old Sunday School teacher is STILL teaching and was honored on that day! She used to take our youth group to the beach and on outings to Umstead Park! I sat in the pew area where my family always sat. I walked the hallways where the children’s classrooms used to be and the smell, a wonderful smell that was just the same, greeted me and brought a picture of Mrs. Rajah Tilley playing the piano to welcome us. It brought home to me just how foundational these people, this church had been for me. I came back to my Trinity home with a heightened sense of the power and presence of a loving church family.
Now, in my position as Director of Children and Family Ministries at Trinity Episcopal, I realize it’s like coming full circle. My deepest hope for the children that I serve is that the people and the actual church space, will one day hold for them this feeling of warmth and connectedness, regardless of where their faith journey has taken them.
What does faith formation for children really mean to me? First, it means to COME: come together, find ways to be present for one another, create an inviting atmosphere and engaging curriculum that encourages parents and their children to COME. To walk through these doors, to become familiar with the smells, sights, sounds, hallways, nooks and crannies of this church. To recognize the faces that swirl around us each time we enter the doors. To parents I say, COME, COME, COME. Give your child the gift of the stories, people and places that invite them into the language and experience of our faith.
And WONDER. At Trinity we use the faith formation resource Godly Play, and wondering is at its’ heart. After hearing stories of our faith, children are invited to wonder, to find themselves in the story. I was immediately drawn to this approach because it keeps the stories alive and ever new. Questions, doubts, realizations are all encouraged. We grow as we wonder together. Children very often lead the way! Parents do not have to have all of the answers--again, we wonder together! The sentence “I don’t know, let’s try and find out” are powerful! We use Godly Play in many areas other than children’s formation. We have used it with the diocesan homeless ministry, Church of the Advocate, in adult formation classes, with large props in our main services, for baptismal preparation and on and on. Endless ways of wondering…
At the heart of it all is seeing, being present, and the connections we make with one another. As we sing in our favorite song in Children’s Hour, "I am the Church, You are the Church, We are the church together." So COME! WONDER…