Reprinted with permission
from “Good News,” the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese
Will our faith have children?
Answer lies in focus on Christian formation for all ages
Rt. Rev. James E. Curry
In mid-February, 600 leaders
from across the Episcopal Church gathered in Oakbrook,
was part of a seven-person team of Christian educators from
The title of the conference was meant to be provocative. In a time when the Church’s mission and ministry compete with other activities and values in our culture for the time and energy of people, many parishes have seen their ministries for children and youth dwindle in size and funding. In a time of heightened anxiety in our society about the economy and international relations and the continuing threat of poverty, disease and terror for the children of the world, we are right to be concerned about the future of all children.
took as our starting point the threefold declaration of The Children’s Charter
of the Episcopal Church: (1) Nurture of the Child, (2) Ministry to the Child,
(3) Ministry of the Child. Our team also carried with us the renewed
commitment of this Diocese to children and youth.
Possibilities for nurturing children in the Christian faith are bound closely to continuing spiritual formation and nurture of adults in the faith. The Rev. Robin Szoke, national staff officer for Children’s Ministry, and her leadership team realized very early in the planning for this conference that the question, “Will our faith have children?” needs to be addressed in the context of Christian formation for all Christians over their whole life span.
Children’s Ministries Office produced a video for this conference, based on interviews
of adults and children at five cathedrals that asked them four questions: Do
you believe in God? How did you first learn about God? How do you tell others
about God? and, Why do you go to Church?
collage of responses, interwoven across generations, spoke to the joy and
desolation of the modern human experience and to frustration and hope in developing
life in Christ. Children spoke of how much better the world would be if we only
knew Jesus better. Adults wondered out loud about why the cross, and
suffering, have to be at the center of our lives. As we discussed the video in
community, it tapped our own hopes and fears, providing us an opportunity to
share our own stories of faith and formation.
conference participant chose an area of concentration, a seminar group, which
became his or her core community for the event. Sharon Pearson was the facilitator
for the seminar on designing and using curriculum resources. I was one of the
coordinators for the seminar on bishops in Christian education and formation.
Other members of our team participated in seminar groups on Christian
initiation, biblical storytelling, leadership development for teachers of those
who teach others to teach, faith formation, keeping cultural identity, leadership
development of teachers of adults, and community hospitality and the
discernment of gifts.
18 bishops in my seminar group realized to our chagrin that there is no
national committee to provide the theological groundwork or oversight for ministries
in Christian education and formation. As Christians and Episcopalians we are
all called into mission, yet the church has woefully inadequate ways of nurturing
children and adults in faith for living out the covenant we made with God at
We concluded that Christian formation to meet the developmental needs of people across the life span must be at the core of the life and work of a church on mission. As a first response to this need, my colleagues and I will bring a proposal for the creation of a House of Bishops Committee on Christian Formation to our spring meeting in March.
diocesan team met before we went to
Our experience in Oakbrook underscored the opportunities and barriers we face in bringing Christ to the children of our society and the children (of all ages) of our church into deepening and formative relationship with Christ.
conference reinforced a comprehensive understanding of Christian formation
that is already at work in this diocese. Two years ago the Commission on
Ministry was reorganized to provide equal emphasis for the support and nurture
of the ministry of all ministers of the church: the laity, deacons, priests,
and bishops. This has meant the creation of a sub-committee on the ministry of
all the baptized which is known as the Discipleship Task Force. As we begin to
live into the vision of our diocese as God’s people, on mission, the
Discipleship Task Force is being asked to help lead this diocese into creative,
sustainable, and challenging ways to uphold and form people on mission in
Commission on Ministry will be using the video that sparked our discussions in
Oakbrook as a starting point for their annual retreat this spring. The question,
“Will our faith have children?” touches our deep anxieties, but also calls
forth an equally deep affirmation.
The God of love and redemption is calling the church beyond itself to proclaim God’s faithfulness and live out God’s purposes: new life and hope and reconciliation for all the children of the world through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The video “Will our Faith have Children?” (in VHS or DVD format) and a four-part study guide is available for loan from Bishop Curry’s office.
You may also purchase the video (in VHS or DVD format) from Episcopal Parish Services.