Dear St. Paul’s family,
Our former staff member David Tremaine recently published a version of this letter on the diocesan network. It’s a helpful reflection on our lifelong work of formation. Enjoy!
Your sister in Christ,
What is Formation?
The first question to ask when defining what we are doing in “Formation” is “Who and what are we Forming?”
The work of formation is the ongoing, life-long, and life-wide work of forming disciples. It is the work we are all doing all the time in trying to live fully into our identity as those who follow Jesus in the world today, in our words and actions.
When we talk about discipleship, we are talking about formation, because it is both what we are forming and that into which we are being formed.
If you want an example of formation, look no further than the gospels, because Jesus was doing the work of forming disciples. And how did he go about doing this? Teaching, yes, but also prayer, scripture reading and interpretation, caring relationships, exploring the faith tradition, service to others, actively seeking justice, and engaging in ritual action and the feasts of the Jewish calendar.
Thus, we have tried to be intentional in these last few decades about moving from “Christian Education” or “Religious Education” to “Formation,” because while teaching and learning are vital parts of our formation as disciples, they are not all of it.
Sunday school, forums, and seasonal classes are part of formation, but they are not all of it.
Formation is about cultivating intentional offerings to help us reflect on and support all of the ways we are being formed as disciples.
This includes educational forums and class offerings, but also Bible study, small groups, worship, celebrating the liturgical calendar, engagement in rituals and marking milestones, serving others, and works of justice. It is an active engagement of not just the head, but equally of the heart and the hands. Formation is the active work of discipleship and then the intentional exploration of and reflection on that work which in turn continues to form us as disciples.
This is the work of Formation, work God calls us to take part in each and every day. It is both joyful and challenging, and is itself one of the many ways we continue to follow Jesus on the path he has set before us.
Diocesan Formation Committee Chair; Minister of Formation at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church