Drive through blessings as Christian Education Week begins

Set aside as a reminder of the importance of faith formation, this year’s events are marked by prayers of gratitude and lament

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Angus Aycock greets Mary Todd Peters during New Hope Presbyterian Church’s “Drive Through Blessing,” which marked the beginning of the church’s Christian education year. (Photo by Sara Eslinger)

LOUISVILLE — The Sunday after Labor Day has always been a big day of celebration for many Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations around the country.  But this year the beginning of Christian Education Week — which is set aside in the PC(USA) as a reminder of the importance of faith formation and those who teach and plan for another church program year — looks and feels entirely different.

While First Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colorado has postponed all Christian education activities since March 1, they’ve received a number of copies of “Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible” from Presbyterian Mission Agency through Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministries’ Scattered Church project. The story Bible’s three reflection questions at the end of every story help parents, children and families share their own faith formation stories in their homes. The Rev. Loye Troxler said while special attention is also being given to children’s time during worship, First Church’s top priority is to maintain worship in a healthy and safe manner during this time of dueling pandemics — coronavirus and racial injustice.

During New Hope Presbyterian Church’s “Drive Through Blessing” event, students each wrote a hope and a worry on colorful stones. (Photo by Sara Eslinger)

New Hope Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina also received copies of “Growing in God’s Love.” Some were presented to families attending the church’s “Drive Through Blessing,” which marked the beginning of the church’s new Christian education year.  New Hope’s director of Christian Education, Mary Todd Peters, said the event helped students and parents start off the new year positively — and with hope, which was important to her because she feels like the families she serves are overwhelmed with working from home, online school, the fear of the virus and all the other stressful things happening in the country.

Dr. Vickie Dieth gets ready to hand out backpack tags at one of the stations at the drive through rally day. (Photo by Danny Dieth)

 At First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Georgia, the pandemic has helped members and friends hone their goals for the fall faith formation year, helping congregational members and families  share and hear  each other’s stories and connecting them to God’s story. The director of educational ministries, Dr. Vickie Dieth, is starting a three-week experimental Bible study on Sunday with a small group of families in the church on the Creation story found in “Growing in God’s Love.”

Judah and Annie Mock tie prayer ribbons to their church’s railing as part of First Presbyterian Church’s drive through rally day in Columbus, Georgia. (Photo by Danny Dieth)

“Receiving these Bibles to get into people’s home was like a magical gift,” she said. “They’re perfect for parents who are stuck at home, to do some faith sharing.  After every story the families read together, this Bible invites them to have a conversation (with hear, see and act reflection questions).”

And for Daniel A. Valez-Acevedo, director of children, youth and family ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Cranford in New Jersey, receiving the exact number of Bibles he needed for the families he serves reminded him that God always provides — and is faithful. He’s excited to work through the stories in “Growing in God’s Love” as a way of addressing church families feeling lost in the midst of chaos and the disruption of constant change.

“When we get lost in all of the noise swirling around us, we center ourselves by remembering who God is,” he said.

That comes, Velez-Acevedo believes, from simple stories learned in Bible school.  Like Jesus calming the storm and God in Creation, Israel wandering in the desert, or the passion and resurrection of Christ.

“They remind us that when life gets chaotic, God is with us,” he said, “God’s grace abounds even in midst of uncertainty and anxiety.”

First-grader Jaxon Borkhuis receives his “Growing in God’s Love” Story Bible from New Hope Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to mark the beginning of new Christian education year. (Photo by David McLamb)

Stephanie Fritz, the PC(USA)’s associate coordinator for Christian Formation, referred to this as “resting in the knowledge of God’s abundant grace” in the Minute for Mission she wrote for the beginning of Christian education week this year.

Before her prayer of gratitude and lament, she described how inspirational Christian educators and church leaders have been to her by responding to the critical needs of the church while keeping the importance of faith formation at the heart of their ministries.

“We were thrilled to be able to support their ministries with the Scattered Church project in partnership with Presbyterian Publishing Corporation,” she said. “The at-home modules that are part of the story Bible curriculum are timely and an important tool in equipping families as the primary faith teachers.”

 The Office of Christian Formation in the Presbyterian Mission Agency  has recently released the Faith Practices Toolkit which includes free downloads of resources.


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