September 9, 2018
When it comes to Christian education, Maria Harris stands out as one of the most influential teachers and writers of the past 30 years. In her 1989 book Fashion Me a People: Curriculum in the Church, Harris helped shape a theology of educational ministry in the church that understands “The Word continually becoming flesh, in us.” If the Word is perpetually at work in us, then by our ordinary, everyday, walking-around lives, all of us are de facto Christian educators. Curriculum may include printed materials and classroom instruction, but an incarnational “curriculum” resides in our life together where we embrace every member as a teacher to every other member — regardless of our age or ability. Christian education is the community of faith engaging with one another and working together to make the Gospel visible to one another and to our neighbors in the world. Christian education is happening in every encounter, every action and every conversation, whether we are in churches or homes, workplaces or schools, grocery stores or mission agencies, next door or across the ocean. Every facet of our community life is as an opportunity for spiritual nurture, but sometimes it is hard to break people’s perceptions of Christian education as more than classroom instruction. What can be done to raise awareness of “the Word continually becoming flesh in us” so that everyone in the congregation embraces his or her Christian educator status? Here are a few ideas that might spark further imagination:
- Increase opportunities for intergenerational activities that allow people of all ages to interact and learn from one another just prior to the start of the worship service.
- In many congregations, “Passing the Peace” is a regular feature of the liturgy. From time to time, issue an invitation that structures this exchange so that everyone must greet three people with a birthdate in a decade different from his/her own. Or greet one person who is seated on a different side of the church from you.
- On a Sunday when there is a baptism, invite all of the children of the church to have a front row seat and offer a few words of introduction about what is about to take place. You might also include a part for them in the liturgy. After asking the congregational questions, address the children and ask:
“Do you, the children of God, promise to welcome (name of one being baptized) as a sister (or brother)? Do you promise to learn the stories of Jesus together and be a friend when she (he) is happy and when she (he) is sad?” Children respond: “We do.”
4. Renew your commitment to the neighborhood that surrounds your church building. What are ways you can make a difference
to the people that live or work in the neighborhood?
Because Christ lives in us, everyone’s life has something important to teach us about the one we call “Lord.” And every act, no matter how seemingly small or significant, contributes to our life-long learning to become imitators of Christ. As we live into our calling as Christian educators, we celebrate the incarnational moments that take place when we hold an infant in the nursery, light candles in the sanctuary, join our voices in the singing of a hymn, take canned goods to the food pantry, deliver a Minute for Mission, create a liturgical banner, teach a class, preach a sermon and send a card to a homebound church member.
Rev. Tammy Wiens, Mission Coordinator for Christian Formation, Presbytery of the James
Today’s Focus: Christian Education Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy teacher, your Word is written on our lives. Deepen our receptivity to the ways in which “the Word of God is becoming flesh in us.” Make us patient listeners to each other’s lives so that we can respond to one another in love. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Lectionary texts Ex. 12:1-14; Ps. 149; Rom. 13:8-14; Matt. 18:15-20