Last month I was involved in an experience which has made me wonder, wonder about some of our approaches for adult faith formation.
In an online discussion with leaders in adult faith formation throughout the country (who usually have lots to say) I asked what their churches were doing in response to the call from Pope Francis for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria (on September 7, 2013). Francis invited Catholics, other Christians, those of other faiths and non-believers who are `'men of good will" to join him that day in St. Peter's Square to invoke the `'gift" of peace for Syria, the rest of the Middle East and worldwide where there is conflict.
There was one response.
The next week I asked what churches were planning to observe the International Day of Peace. This day was established in 1981 by the United Nations and is now celebrated throughout the world on September 21. The UN declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
No one responded.
Perhaps congregations – and individuals – were planning events, but just didn’t have an opportunity to respond to the discussion.
Might it have been, though, that nothing was planned?
Therefore, my wondering; can we use everyday events for adult faith formation? It means, of course, that we can’t always plan ahead (as important as that is). The day of peace for Syria, of course, was not “on the calendar” when churches planned their schedules in April or May. (However, we do know that the International Day of Peace happens each year.)
Can we be ready to respond to current happenings in the life of people, the life of the church, the life of the local community, the life of the world? If the death of a child within the church or community tragically happens, do we continue on with what was originally planned, or do we take time to reflect and discuss together – as a Christian community – on death and loss, grief, the question of suffering, how we find God in challenging times?
Often it means not planning a “new program,” but inviting people to come together to question, to discuss, to pray. When the tragedy happened at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT in December 2012, did our churches – around the country - open their doors to provide safe places for people to question, to experience support, to reflect, to talk about solutions for the future?
Our faith is found and lived in the everyday events of life – joys and sorrows. How do we support that?
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