Randy Murray
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Approximately 75 clergy of the Diocese of New Westminster attended a Clergy Day on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, in the main conference room of the Synod offices at 1410 Nanton Avenue. The theme for the day was “Our hearts are burning within us:” – Renewing adult Christian formation in the parish.

After Morning Prayer, and some gathering time the Clergy Day got underway about 10:30am. Bishop Skelton began by asking the plenary about what kinds of adult Christian formation are taking place in their faith communities. She also supplied some definitions about what constitutes Christian formation, formal and informal. For Bishop Skelton, adult Christian formation is a key element of parish development, parish health and subsequently parish growth. In the first handout distributed, Bishop Skelton wrote. “Christian formation is at the core of the purpose of a parish church/faith community. God is always the ultimate source of all formation. Our (clergy) role is to assist God in God’s work of the formation of God’s own people.”

The plenary turned their chairs and formed small discussion groups with the goal of reporting back with some questions to be looked at about adult Christian formation.
The Reverend Ruth Monette, Director for Mission and Ministry Development and Ministry and Ministry Resource Associate, Tasha Carrothers staffed the flipcharts in order to make a record of the ideas offered by the group.

Following this exercise, the Reverend Monette displayed a Christian formation in parishes matrix and offered some examples of adult Christian formation activities that produce holistic results; for example, the parish group working on a Food Bank initiative, gathers together after doing that work for a theological reflection, “Did we see the face of Christ in those we served today?” Ruth was joined by Bishop Skelton and they asked the clergy to form smaller groups of three or four respond to two questions:

  1. On a 1-5 scale what is your level of intentionality around Adult Christian Formation in your parish?
  2. If you had one wish to strengthen Adult Formation in your parish, what would it be?

A feature of the morning session was a panel made up of four rectors and a vicar from around the diocese who are engaged in different ways of bringing adult Christian formation to their parishes. Each panelist spoke and there was time for questions from the floor.

After lunch the focus went from theory, visioning and sharing concepts to more practical aspects of how to work on adult formation priorities in parishes. There were two lists displayed, one with areas of Christian life and the other asking the question “Who are your people?”

Again there was substantial time dedicated to small group discussion and to reporting back.

Tasha Carrothers led the group with a lecture style presentation sharing some principles of adult learning which included engaging the learners “head” and “heart” and a brief introduction to Myers-Briggs Type. Determining Myers-Briggs Type helps to understand learning styles. On the flipside of the circulated handout Tasha had printed a lesson plan that would be sensitive to different varieties of learning styles.

Bishop Skelton continued with the next piece of the afternoon program, pointing out that the diversity of each community must be considered in the planning process for adult Christian formation. She asked what newcomers might fear when they come into a Bible study for example? “How do we take a group of people through this and have them grow to be more responsible and take a share of the learning experience?” It’s not about abandoning content but about creating engagement with the learners so that the content will be effectively absorbed.

The Reverend Ruth Monette finished up the focus on adult Christian formation by handing out a list of helpful resources, websites, blogs, DVD study sets etc. and presenting some additional information about components of the resources list. There was also an opportunity for the clergy to offer suggestions about resources they had found useful.

As has become tradition Bishop Skelton spent the last few minutes of the day answering questions about current events in the diocese and beyond.

The next Clergy Day is currently scheduled for May 3 and will have focus on children and youth in our parish communities.

Images:

  • The welcoming flipchart page
  • Bishop Skelton presenting during the morning session
  • The Reverend Ruth Monette with the "matrix"
  • Small group discussions are an important component of Clergy Day
  • The panel: The Reverend’s: Doerksen, Schaap, Harriman, Taylor and Halladay
  • Tasha Carrothers speaks about learning styles and adult Christian formation.