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Resources now available for planning Christian Formation Celebration Week

Practice your faith by marking the milestone of the new church year at home and with congregation and community

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Planning resources for Christian Formation Celebration Week include suggestions for mission and intergenerational activities for Kickoff or Rally Sunday. In this file photo, Central Presbyterian Church in Denver fills flood recovery buckets for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. (Photo by Stephanie Fritz)

LOUISVILLE — New resources are now available to assist Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations planning to celebrate Christian Formation Week, which begins the Sunday after Labor Day on September 12.

According to Stephanie Fritz, coordinator for the Office of Christian Formation, churches kick off the church calendar year during an event often referred to as Rally Sunday at different times depending on when their local school calendar begins. As a result, the final weeks of August through Labor Day traditionally mark the beginning of a new church year.

Fritz’s Christian Formation team brought together educators and pastors and asked them what they would like — and what they needed — to help them mark Christian Formation Celebration Week.

“What we learned from them is that we need to offer more home resources, which is part of what we did during the pandemic,” Fritz said.

So, the office of Christian Formation added a Faith Practices at Home resource written by Becky D’Angelo-Veitch, director of faith formation at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. The resource includes ways for families to start the school year faithfully at home during a season of new beginnings.

The Christian Formation team included a Faith Practices for at Home resource as part of the planning resources for Christian Formation Celebration Week in 2021.

In the past year, Fritz said the Office of Christian Formation has developed new ways to celebrate Kickoff Sunday and Rally Days to involve more people from both inside and outside the congregation. Included in the resource Christian Formation Celebration Week are multiple questions and suggestions for those planning the beginning of a new church year designed to help congregations evaluate habits and characteristics of their church and community. There’s also a list of ideas on how to make the celebration intergenerational and missional.

“We understand that Christian formation happens more than just in Sunday school,” Fritz said.

Fritz points to the Liturgy Resources written by the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, where the associate for Worship in the  Office of Theology and Worship encourages congregations to see the many ways formation occurs in all parts of their lives. The resource also helps congregations to recognize leaders of Christian formation during worship.

Miatta Wilson, mission specialist for Christian Formation, wrote the Blessings Around the New School Year resource.

Children tie prayer ribbons to their church’s railing as part of First Presbyterian Church’s drive-through rally a year ago in Columbus, Georgia. (Photo by Danny Dieth)

Stating that this year will be different “as many return to in-person learning after more than a year of online or hybrid school experiences,” Wilson address the importance of faith communities and congregations to mark this “back to school” milestone. Using the “Blessing of the Backpacks” ritual, she offers ways to incorporate that and more into worship and prayer services.

Wilson also looks at ways to involve more people, including education leaders and young adults going off to college, as well as offering suggestions for mission and intergenerational activities as part of the celebration.

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