This November I will celebrate 10 years with the CT Conference United Church of Christ and I truly celebrate each day. Each day brings new ideas and new opportunities to network and make connections. In my role as Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership, I have a variety of occasions to serve local church leaders, the regional faith community and the national church. Whether I am participating in a New England Region event as a workshop leader, attending a national conversation to explore Progressive Children’s Ministry in Cleveland, or offering a safe conduct training in your town, this ministry fills the heart of this servant leader.
I’m eager to be called upon to find the right resource, to connect leaders with similar needs or questions and to match experienced leaders who are willing to mentor someone new to faith formation. The ministry of faith formation and leadership development are indeed my call and as Frederick Buechner has described it; “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I am glad to work in partnership with a community of Christians who seek to meet the world’s deep spiritual hunger.
Over the years one of the top 3 inquiries is what I call The Confirmation question.
If faith formation is to be relevant and transformational, it must be renewed and reimagined by every generation. We must set aside time to listen, to discern and plan for the needs and complexities of each generation. There are needs which transcend generations, too. Regarding the rite and journey of Confirmation, we ask:
Who is on this journey? What do they ask of this experience? What concepts are called for? What rituals make meaning? What activities will engage and teach? What is the role of relationships? And more!
As we prepare to enter the next decade of ministry in the 21st century church, once again we find ourselves asking, what is the meaning of the rite of Confirmation? Does it remain a ritual in search of meaning, as Ostermiller and Monkres once posed in their book, The Rite of Confirmation: Moments When Faith Is Strengthened. (Of course, they went onto describe 5 core elements for the journey as key to faith formation and discipleship-)
I would propose that it is the role of those who lead within our congregations, clergy, professional faith formation staff and lay leaders is to engage in a process of shared discernment and ask these questions with some regularity. If we are to offer a journey that is authentic and has integrity, it must be an intentional and conscious pathway within the culture of your faith community and with connections to the wider church.
It is not enough to ask about the “latest and greatest” curriculum. Initially, we must engage the deeper questions of meaning, of impact, of discipleship, of transformation. Recently, I presented our wider community a simple, 9 questions survey designed to offer a current glimpse into the status of the Confirmation question. There were 106 respondents from across the CT Conference and I appreciate your participation. Some of you completed it and some wrote to say why you did not. I am grateful for each response.
If you are interested in reviewing the results, please connect to the link here on our website where we curate faith formation resources – the Bulletin Board page.
I hope you’ll find something useful and provocative in this information. I know I have.
Karen Ziel is the Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the CT Conference, UCC.
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Karen Ziel is the Assistant Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL) at the Southern New England Conference. She can help congregations and their leaders with tools and resources for assessment and discernment. As a member of ...