Invite Welcome Connect

Mary Parmer began an evangelism ministry around 2007 that she came to call Invite Welcome Connect. The story of how she came to create and lead this dynamic ministry is contained in Chapter One of her book, Invite Welcome Connect. After introducing herself and this evangelism ministry in the book, she goes on to describe each of the three stages of the ministry and devotes time to several critical components.

I do not plan to summarize Mary Parmer’s book. It is an easy read and I suspect that you can get an good idea of its content and Mary’s message from other sources. I will focus on the ministry of evangelism, as discussed in Invite Welcome Connect (both the ministry and the book) and its connections with the catechumenate.

First, a personal note. In my bio I mentioned that, at one point in my journey and career, I was Executive Director for the National Council for Catholic Evangelization (the NCCE). (“Evangelization” is the Roman Catholic equivalent to the Protestant “evangelism.” Why the difference? I don’t know.) . Prior to that job, I was RCIA Director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend. During that time I began to realize the connection between evangelization and the catechumenate. Inquirers or seekers need to come from somewhere. While we can make the case that God leads them to the door of the church, we also need to realize that we are called to proclaim the Good News. In doing so, we hope and pray that inquirers are hearing God’s call through us. In any event, my focus turned to evangelization. I got involved in the NCCE. The Catholic Church was experiencing “evangelization enthusiasm” at that time. Pope Paul VI published his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi in 1975 but, for some reason, it had taken a decade to gain significant attention in the United States.

The Episcopal Church is going through a similar experience right now. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry strongly encourages evangelism. His preaching is evangelistic. He sees no reason for hesitating to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, if we truly believe that it is the Gospel. The “Way of Love” initiative is there to support efforts at the diocesan and parochial levels. Support of ministries like Invite Welcome Connect and the catechumenate is part of this effort. I pray that we can continue the current energy.

There is a connection between the two ministries of Invite Welcome Connect and the catechumenate. That connection does not seem to be immediately evident to many. Bishop Megan is a strong advocate for both ministries but I don’t think she made the connection until I pointed it out to her.

  • Both “programs” are ministries, not programs;
  • Both ministries recognize that there are people beyond the walls of the church who are hearing that small voice and are seeking to respond, even when they don’t know what they are responding to;
  • Both ministries are “lay driven” while recognizing the need for clergy support;
  • Both ministries are led by God’s Spirit to guide people to God through Jesus’ Good News of forgiveness and love.
  • Both ministries embrace the Spirit’s creative force to better do God’s work

Invite Welcome Connect leads us in a way to invite and welcome those who are seeking without knowing that they are. The catechumenate adds the spiritual formation and liturgical elements that help “close the back door” by integrating people into our way of serving, of worshipping, of being a community of love. Together we are doing God’s work.

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What's in a Name?

“In Arizona we use the catechumenate….but no one knows what that is, so we call it ‘Journey to Jesus.'” –Bishop Megan Traquier, January, 2019

We wrestled with the same issue at Trinity Cathedral in the mid-’90’s. Before then the preparation for baptism and/or confirmation was announced as “Confirmation Classes.” Either Rev Lynell Walker or Rev Grant Carey would teach them from early January until Baptism/Confirmation at the Easter Vigil. Grant’s were more academic; the content was church doctrine and history. Lynell’s were more “pastoral”; she helped participants come to a deeper sense of their baptismal call.

The Rev. Kathleen Kelly and I formed a catechumenate team in 1996. One of the first things we explored was the question of a name that said more than “confirmation class” but didn’t use the mysterious word “catechumenate.” Some congregations used “The Way.” This may have been the name used by the 4th Century church. Many Roman Catholic parishes use “RCIA.” Since they have been doing the catechumenate since the ’80’s, the term was familiar to people. We wanted to be different and came up with “Journey with Jesus (JwJ). Some, including Dean Baker, were not comfortable with that. It sounded too evangelical. In fact, Brian urged us to change the name. We changed to “Growing in Faith” and used that for two years.

Bishop Michael Curry visited the Diocese in 2014. The evening before the Diocesan Convention he visited Trinity and gave a stirring talk. Curry has a Southern Baptist evangelical style and is not afraid to talk about “Jeeesus.” He got our staid Episcopal congregation to respond “Amen!” numerous times. He did the same at the Convention. His preaching was marvelous! After he left, I went to Brian and asked if he still wanted us to keep “Growing in Faith.” He agreed to go back to “Journey with Jesus.” We have been using that nomenclature ever since.

What do you call your catechumenate? Sharing names is good.

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Jerry's life..2018 & 2019

As I said in the previous email, Trinity cathedral had a transition in leadership from Brian Baker to Jim Richardson as Interim Dean.

Brian was appreciative of the catechumenate ministry but his focus in 2017 and 2018 was to move on from Trinity. Most ministries at Trinity Cathedral were on their own. They prospered to the degree the ministry leadership devoted the time to maintain and grow the ministries. Trinity’s Adult Spiritual Formation Coordinator went from full time to part time. Brian dismissed an Episcopal priest who served as ASF Coordinator and replaced her with a Presbyterian minister. He did this to demonstrate Trinity’s denominational inclusiveness and because she had a gift for networking. If she had been more accepted at Trinity, the parish would have taken better advantage of her networking with various churches, politicians and organizations. But she wasn’t and her position was cut from the budget for 2019.

The Episcopal priest who served as ASF Coordinator had an appreciation for the catechumenate. I advised her on a paper about the catechumenate that she wrote while in the seminary. And she found a passion in doing retreat work. The Presbyterian minister who replaced her had no appreciation of the catechumenate and left us on our own. In all of this, going back to 2015, other ministry team commitments kept me from participation on the ASF ministry team. Fortunately, Kelly, my most steadfast team member, did represent the catechumenate ministry on the ASF ministry team.

I met with Jim Richardson regarding the catechumenate soon after he started as Interim Dean. He immediately told me that he didn’t see any value in the catechumenate. I raised several arguments:

  • The catechumenate and related rites are in the Book of Occasional Services (BOS), an official liturgical book in the Episcopal Church. Jim’s response: The BOS is a second rate liturgical book that we do to need to pay attention to in terms of liturgical matters.
  • Scholars like Ruth Meyers advocated for the catechumenate — he responded that Ruth is an academician who has no experience in actual pastoral work (which is not true–she is a member of the pastoral team at a Berkeley parish)
  • He stated that something from the 4th Century has little relevance in today’s church.
  • He stated that he is more concerned that people who are joining the Episcopal church have doctrinal content and the catechumenate does not provide that.
  • The few number of participants showed that this “program” does not work (I raised the point that the catechumenate is a ministry, not a program. He didn’t understand that.)

I walked out of his office stunned and discouraged. I met with Kelly and we decided to meet with Jim together. He was insistent that we have confirmation classes like Grant Carey taught. (Grant Carey was a well loved clergy who had passed away in 2017.) Finally Jim agreed that we would have a Sunday presentation in the early fall in which he would introduce his Confirmation classes and Kelly and I could introduce Journey with Jesus.

Kelly and I prepped for the introduction by recruiting several participants from previous Journey with Jesus seasons to give testimonials about their experience. Jim did his introduction first: a 6 – 8 week course on church doctrine that would culminate with confirmation in October during the Bishop’s visitation. We followed with me giving an introduction to what Journey with Jesus is (including deChardin’s “The Slow Work of God”), two testimonials and Kelly’s wrap up. Q&A was to follow. Jim cut one of the testimonials short and rushed Kelly’s wrap up.

Jim had 8 people who wanted to “fast track” by taking the classes. Jim was not able to teach all of the classes because of other commitments. They did go ahead with a baptism and confirmations during Bishop Barry Beisner’s last official visitation.

We had 3 participants who waited for Journey with Jesus to start in November. Judi was a catechumen who was baptized by immersion at the Easter Vigil. Lori participated in the RCIA at a Roman Catholic parish in Dixon and in our Journey with Jesus. She participated in the entire journey but chose to be baptized and confirmed at the Catholic parish. Eileen reaffirmed her faith. These were the last confirmations and reaffirmations that Bishop Beisner celebrated at Trinity Cathedral.

My spring and summer were taken up with the transition of bishops. Bishop Barry Beisner had announced his retirement and the diocese was in the midst of a search for a new bishop. Barry’s retirement included numerous retirement diners, including one at Trinity. I oversaw the planning and execution of that event, just as I had for Brian’s farewell in June, 2018. There were five “finalists” for bishop elect candidates, including Megan Traquier, who I had met at JBL gatherings. She was Canon to the Ordinair for the Diocese of Arizona. I was responsible for the coordination of their “walk-about” stop at Trinity.

I didn’t recognize Megan until she came for the walk-about meeting at Trinity. That consisted of a meeting with the staff during which we all introduced ourselves, including our jobs and other ministries. Of course, I mentioned the catechumenate. Megan came up to me after that meeting and asked how I’m doing. I was tired and answered, “Not so well but we could talk about that later, if we had a chance.”

Part of the walk-about process was a session opened to anyone who wanted to meet the candidates. We had it in the cathedral. At one point Megan was asked about how she would grow and revive congregations in the diocese. She answered by referring to her work with the catechumenate in the Diocese of Arizona as a vehicle for resurrecting congregations. I remember her words: “In Arizona we use a process called the catechumenate. Few people know what that is so we call it ‘Journey to Jesus.’ Through this ministry the Spirit does enliven people to proclaim their faith.” Of course I was ecstatic!

During much of the first half of 2019 I was involved in the installation of the new bishop. Megan was elected on February 9 and a special convention. I was not a delegate and did not vote but was overjoyed with her call. From there we focused a lot of time and attention to all the matters that accompanied a transition of bishops. This included planning and hosting a farewell dinner for Bishop Beisner and events for the consecration. The events for that included a meeting of President Bishop Michael Curry with the clergy of the diocese and the seating of Bishop Megan on June 3o. This involved much cleaning and preening of the cathedral campus as well as involvement in the hospitality aspects of the events.

After the installment of Bishop Megan, the pressures of my job continued to increase until my doctor had me take 60 hours a month of leave time for September – November. I took all of December as vacation and retired on December 31, 2019.

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I'm Baaack!

Wow! My last post might have been in 2015 or 2016…I’m not sure. I dated it 2015 as a guess. My situation has changed. This post will reflect personal history for 2015 – 2018. I will post “things I’ve learned in catechumenal ministry in that time” and perhaps other things having to do with ecclesiology and other matters that have been part of my life during these past years. I know some of it is a matter of “who cares but me?” But some of this personal history may provide context for where I am now personally and in terms of the catechumenate.

First, I AM RETIRED as of January 1, 2020. This changes a lot for me. I plan to devote a lot more time to the catechumenate. I don’t know what that will look like. What I hope it includes is reflections on things I read, praxis on continuing ministry, reflection on the Gospel and so much more.

History first. My job as the Trinity Cathedral Operations Manager continued to grow in scope. As it did, the time I devoted to catechumenal ministry diminished. I was not happy about this, primarily because it reflected my actual priorities–professional job before ministry. Of course there were other things in the mix — primarily my marriage. Our daughter continued to live in San Francisco and married Bryce Sawin Memorial Day weekend, 2018. Mary and I continued to devote way too much time to our jobs. (We’re both workaholics.) . Mary retired in June, 2017. Her younger brother passed away in July. After finishing with that tragedy, Mary turned her energies to helping our daughter plan her wedding. I was on the fringes of the planning but, of course, had some involvement.

In 2015 and 2016, Trinity did some major physical plant repairs. We dug up the Great Hall and kitchen floors because of sewer pipe problems. As Operations Manager I was in the thick of the repairs. I left project management to others but I was the on-site person day after day. I worked with Journey to Baptismal Living (JBL; formerly NAAC) on a conference. Trinity co-hosted with St. John’s Lutheran. The turnout was small but it brought together catechumenate ministers from St. Martin’s in Davis, St. John’s Lutheran and Trinity. Trinity’s team got a better overall picture of the dynamics of the Catechumenate. Dean Brian Baker participated and went away enthused as much more supportive of catechumenal ministry than he had been before attending the conference.

Brian announced his resignation from Dean of the Cathedral in February 2018 and left in June 2018. Jim Richardson, a priest who had been at Trinity when Mary and I first joined the parish, took over as Interim Dean.

I continued as Catechumenate Director during this time but saw participation diminish as I devoted less and less time to the ministry. I had a wonderful team but I was the planner and liaison with staff and was not able to pay this ministry the attention it deserved. But I thought about the ministry during these years and we (the team) tried various things to educate the parish about this ministry and to keep it going.

I stayed involved in JBL and coordinated the 2014 Annual Gathering at Mercy Center, Danville. It was a success but, again, time consuming. In 2016 I left the JBL Board and have only rejoined in December, 2019. It is good to be back.

The last half of 2018 and 2019 were different inasmuch as we went through a change in both parish and diocesan leadership. That is a separate post.

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Reflections

I’m dating this post for January 2015 but, quite frankly, I’m not sure when I wrote it.  Let’s just say that the time gap between earlier regular postings and this post as well as  the time span after this to my next posting in 2020 means a long time from using this post for what it’s meant to be:  reflections primarily on catechumenate ministry and also on other matters (as reflected in the various categories).

I haven’t written in a very long time.   Open heart surgery, time away from the drama of Trinity’s catechumenate and not being able to participate in the 2013 catechumenate are my excuses.  Anway, I will enter a reflection I wrote for the NAAC monthly newsletter.  It involves surrendering leadership of our catechumenate team to other very competent members of the team.  Right now, some points upon which to reflect:  1)  From therule of St.Benedict:  “Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but, as the Apostle says, ‘Test the spirits to see if they are from God.’ (1 John 4:1)”  Opening words of Rule of St. Benedict,  chpt 58    2)  Christopher Webber, in Welcome to Sunday links the early catechumenate with Lent and points out that the 3 years of the early catechumenate matches our current standards 3 year formation process for ordination [link with baptism as the primal sacrament of ordination].

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Mark 1:40-45

The leper falls on his knees before Jesus and begs to be made clean.  A short and powerful story.  Ideal for reflection in a catechumenate meeting, right?  Right.

We talked about faith.  What does it take to be unclean, to be an outcast and approach a man who is the latest sensation in the area?  Did the leper have the doubts and misgivings that I may have to take such a leap of faith?  What are those misgivings?

One of our candidate often says he is afraid of “losing his faith.”  Part of me is not sure what he means by that.  I wanted to talk to him about that today but he missed our meeting.  Faith is a gift,  It is always there for our taking, if we are open to it.  Which means that we need to believe enough to look for it.  Maybe that’s what he means.  He doesn’t want to lose the faith that God gives us faith.  And how can that happen if, if,if you keep your eye on the gifter?

There are people who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life.  There always have been.  They are and probably always have been in the majority. But having once accepted the gift, can I then throw it away?  Perhaps, in despair.  But that means I have misunderstood, mis-perceived the gift I have been given.

Brian talked about the lepers in our society. I thought about going in that direction in the meeting.  I thought of using the example of those with aids as the most recent outcasts in our society.  Brian went further, because Trinity has had and has numerous members who have aids.  He identified our lepers as the homeless.  He admitted that we struggle with accepting these lepers. (I know I do.)  We fear to touch them. They are truly unclean.  And many seem to be trying to scam us.

But how do we know the scammer who reaches out from the one taking the leap of faith that someone from a church will help them?  We don’t at first.  And we don’t after awhile.  We have members who have grown and who have gotten their self-esteem back.  They have had their faith in humanity and in God restored.

The roster includes Randall, ., William.  Pretty small but there may be others of whom we don’t know.  Then there’s Robert.  He’s around everyday.  He is like a gentle, big bear.  I greet him everyday.  I joked with him in the food line the other eve.  When do i invite him to more?

And what about the women?  They are fewer in number.  I suspect theyhave a very hard life trying to survive on the street.  It is pretty brutal.

So far in mark, Jesus has been surrounded by men:  John the Baptist, the first disciples, those he heals.   Interesting that the first who need healing are men.

 

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Revised Catechumenate

From a Lent with much suffering and dying to an Easter with signs of new life and much hope:  this is the story of the catechumenate at Trinity Cathedral for the beginning of 2012.

Much of the story has been detailed in a previous post (“You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am”).  Lent was a time of discussion with Anne McKeever, the Director of Youth & Adult Spiritual Formation (ASF), Lynell Walker, previous Director of Adult Spiritual Formation & part time rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sacramento. Lynell has ministered in the catechumenate for many years and truly understands the process of spiritual formation it strives to provide.  She is also excellent in giving people things to reflect upon after a meeting.  I met with Brian Baker, Dean of the cathedral and the person who baptized an adult on the 2nd Sunday of Lent.  In act, if not in theory, Brian advocates “easy grace” and minimal sacramental prep.  Recently he admitted to me that he does not have a good understanding or appreciation of liturgy.  But he did provide insight in getting me to admit that our current catechumenal process was ineffective.   After thinking through some possible revisions of Trinity’s catechumenate, I met with our team to get input.

My proposal is to join in with the rest of the ASF program by developing and offering a series of basic courses throughout the year.  Lynell’s insight was,  “Jerry, when I’m leading Lunch Bunch or The Writing Circle or any of a bunch of groups, I’m doing catechumenate.  Brian’s was, “I baptized because we don’t have a viable catechumenate.” and “The participants want answers.  We need to offer some ‘101’ courses.”

How does all of this fit into a bigger picture?  The plan is to teach intro courses all year round so that people will have that to get into when they join or after they finish the Newcomer’s classes.  Then, in November, we start promoting the catechumenate for adults wanting to prepare for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, or Renewal.  During Advent and Epiphany we will focus on “sacramental life.”  We will have a Rite of Commitment in there (probably right after Christmas/New Year’).   Two Sunday’s before Lent we will have a presentation of the Creed with a retreat on the Saturday before Lent begins. Enrollment on the First Sunday of Lent and go from there!  During Lent the focus of the meetings will be the baptismal covenant as embodied in the Apostle’s creed.  With a retreat on the creed as well, this might be too much emphasis. But the details still need to be worked out.  Maybe changing some of the meeting times so that the candidates can actively participate in Stations of the Cross and other lenten prayer activities.

I’m excited by the prospects.  It will be seen how well it draws.  The classes and set time frame for actual “preparation” may get better response.

 

 

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When to baptize?

The above question can be answered in numerous ways. All involve praxis because of the very nature of sacrament as visible action celebrating grace.

Most recently my experience is one in which there is a presumption that grace is alive and well in a person if/when they step forward and express an interest in celebrating a sacrament.  No further preparation or formation is deemed necessary.  The presumption is that celebration precedes growth in grace; that there is no need for the Christian community to voice expectations that the seeker act in ways that show sincerity of purpose and/or an understanding of what we are celebrating.

This model allows for baptism almost immediately upon request with 60 – 90 minute “instruction” being adequate for the formation process.  It allows for designated length “classes” for those who say they want to be confirmed (with suspicions that it is the parents who are acting upon parental wants for their children).  It allows for an open table where all are invited to communion when no attempt has previously been made to incorporate the new communicant into the community.

There may be a consistency in this model when we address other sacraments of vocation, i.e. marriage and orders.  The development I see is a lessening of the importance of seminary training and discernment by the local community that the person is indeed called and meets some set of criteria prior to ordination.  And that set is named.  We witness the current dissolution of marriage when this model is applied to that sacrament.  We witnessed the degradation of vocations during the middle ages with ordained clergy who were ignorant of theology and not infused with a prayer life and again recently in denominations where the emphasis was on getting ordained personnel “out into the field” rather than grace filled leaders of prayer.

The presumption is that there is a grace bestowed at baptism, at confirmation, in Eucharist through which the newly baptized, the confirmandi, the new communicant will continue to grow.  This may be the case.  However it is not the theology of the Church except in very recent times.

The theology of the early church and of the church reforming since Vatican II is that there is a need to recognize stages of initial growth in Christ through the rites of Christian initiation, including Eucharist.

During these last few weeks I thought that the praxis of “quick” baptism and confirmation, and of invitations to the table to those with little if no understanding of what they are celebrating,  might be part of emergent church theology.  I thought it might be seen as a response to the recognition that fewer and fewer people see Christianity as as a viable response to their quest for the Good or that any such quest is happening at all.  But, as I read material on the sacraments in our postmodern age, I see that a different praxis is encouraged.

This alternative emphasizse the need to discern where an inquirer is at, to hear their story, to guide them along a path that includes.  The recent work of Keenan Osborne, OFM (Christian Sacraments in a Postmodern Worl:…), Samuel Torvend (Flowing Water; Uncommon Birth) and others advocate for catechumenates that model that which Jesus exercised with his disciples.  Such a catechumenate is open-ended and usually takes a year or more to complete.  Celebration is at Easter.  Such a catechumenate extends to confirmation and celebration of Eucharist as part of initiation, not before it.  Both of these authors and others seek an answer in the postmodern world that is also named as the sacramental theology response as part of emergent church theology.

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“You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” Mk 8:34 (Message)

This Lent is particularly difficult.  I have envisaged this portion of this blog as reflection on the gospel passages with a focus towards leading catechumenate meetings.  Today I find the focus on myself. Some would argue that that is the best way to prepare for such meetings.  Perhaps.

The context:  we have celebrated baptisms during the first two Sundays of Lent.  Such celebrations are allowed in the Episcopal church.  There is a provision in the BCP for this (page 299) but it certainly isn’t the customary practice of the Church from the time Lent first began in the Church through now.  In fact, with the reformation of the sacraments, such Lenten celebrations have been increasingly discouraged.   I don’t know what the circumstances are around today’s celebrations.  One of those baptized was an adult.

I did not have a voice in these decisions to baptize.  This is part of my frustration and anger.  This is where I hear the voice to deny myself and follow Christ. I am asking myself whether or not my disappointment with our liturgical practice so far this Lent is pharisaical?  Am I too concerned with the “Law” rather than with the Dean’s expression of faith that “many were brought to the Lord.”

Today’s passage from Romans (4:13-25) causes me to pause.  As does the Gospel verse “the Son of Man…[will] be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes…”   What many of us (including me) want to cling to as “Law” is the practice of no baptism during Lent.  Does it make a difference?

Perhaps the clinging to a practice doesn’t make a difference but the intent of the practice does.  What is the intent of a longer formation process leading to baptism?  Formation into discipleship.  So the way a Christian community celebrates baptism does make a difference in several ways:

  • Discernment–both the individual and the minister need to go through a process of discernment as to the readiness of the candidate (or of the parents & godparents) to live Christian lives.  The discernment process in and of itself takes more than a one-hour meeting (a common practice both here and elsewhere);
  • Celebration of the sacraments within the context of the Church year, which is intimately connected to those celebrations;
  • What we say (pastoral leadership and the entire community) as to what we believe baptism to be about.  If it is about new life in Christ and we are so close to celebrating that at Easter, then why not wait until then?  If baptism is about celebrating the sacrament when family members can make it, has the candidate or the community really reflected upon the Gospel  that tells us and shows us that following Christ often means leaving one’s current community, including family?  “Those who want to save their life will lose it.”

(There are numerous other differences that I may add in the future. These are ones that come to mind immediately.)

So my struggle:  I was a small voice who questioned the practice of us celebrating baptisms during Lent.  I thought I had at least that much of a responsibility as a leader in the catechumenate.  But I was not consulted about the practice.  All were done for “pastoral reasons.”  And, in order to get beyond both disappointment and anger, I must lose that part of myself that is pharisaical about such practices.

But this raises another question:  Are there standards for celebrations of the sacraments?  If so, what are they?  If one minimizes discernment regarding baptismal formation, then what about discernment and formation associated with marriage and/or ordination?  These are the other sacraments associated with vocation.  Trinity has a very good Commission on Ministry.  The members take their responsibility to discern readiness to pursue licensed and ordained ministries seriously.  But why, if we aren’t exercising the same seriousness regarding the initiation sacraments?

This includes Eucharist (also a sacrament of vocation):  Trinity does not “fence the table” (limit communion to the baptized).  We open communion to all present in the name of hospitality.  One indication I have of the readiness of a candidate for baptism is if/when that person tells me that they want to fast from communion until their baptism.  That’s when I know they are “getting” what the sacraments are about.

This Lent the Worship team decided that we would use communion wafers rather than baked bread for Sunday Eucharist in order “to simplify life during this season of Lent.”  If we’re going to be radically for Lent or against it, I suggest one or the other:

  • change from Eucharist to Morning Prayer during Lent to simplify life even more and to fast from the Eucharist

or

  • continue to celebrate baptisms during Lent and add the “Alleluia’s” back into the Sunday celebrations.

The current combination of practices is confusing, perhaps even scandalous to some.

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Advent and Beyond

We did what I said we wouldn’t do this year–we asked those involved in the catechumenate to join the parish in the ADVENTure series during Advent.  This is a series of outreach activities.  I stressed to the sponsors that they needed to go with the candidates and encourage them to participate.  This worked for the first week then it fell apart.

Meanwhile the team used the first week of Advent to reflect on the past year and to look ahead.  We felt pretty good about the focus on lectio but decided that we would try one session a month focused on “church” questions about the “what’s this?” and the “why’s that?” questions. People really yearn for that and don’t seem to think they are “learning” unless they understand these things.

We (I with the team response, “OK let’s try it”) decided to move the meetings to Sundays in 2012. We’ve done so but numbers have not increased.  They seem to have fallen off.    That’s because we have two meeting times:  9:00, during the 9am service, and one at 11:15, during that service.  Participation as been sporadic but  the 9 has been slowly growing.  It also seems like fewer numbers because of the two times rather than one.  Some weeks we have no participants at one or the other meeting.  Fortunately the leaders have faith and stick with me.

One member has left the group to take a Thursday eve class on the Episcopal church.  She is still in the catechumenate even though she doesn’t come to the meetings.  She is following her path.  Her sponsor is staying with her.

We do not have candidates for the Rite of Enrollment this year even though we do have a candidate for Confirmation.  She was baptized at the Vigil last year (the Bishop was not here).  My initial judgement at the time was that she was not ready.  She was.  As I have seen her involvement in the church this year, I am convinced that she is ready to celebrate confirmation.  I approached her about it at Christmas.  She wants to.  I told her I want her to meet with the Bishop prior to confirmation.  She will keep the same sponsor.

God continues to teach me what it means to honor the unique paths of each and how to coordinate all of these in the “church.”  Flexibility and openness are key.

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