Last year I had the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Tim Whitaker at Virginia Wesleyan University. After 2 days with Bishop Whitaker I wrote some thoughts connecting the primitive Christian church and the manner in which catechesis is done in the church today. I wrote:
CHRISTIAN FORMATION - THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH TOOK THIS SERIOUSLY
At its basic level, Sunday School is Christian formation. It is an opportunity to share what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a context that students will understand at whatever given age they are. We can all remember the cute crafts of Noah's ark we made as kids and then later learning that the ark was more than just a boat, it was a life line that led Noah and his family to a rainbow signaling a new covenant. Sunday School is supposed to be the time when children, teenagers, and adults ALL learn about the Christian in a context that is appropriate for the stage of life they are in.
The early primitive church believe Christian Formation was important too. Christian Formation was a requirement of membership in the community. There was an expectation that you would know the basics of the faith prior to joining the community. This was done through a process called "Catechesis".
Catechesis is a fancy church word for a period of study people would go through prior to joining the church. Meaning, the faith was taught by word of mouth for the purposes of preparing people for baptism.
During this period of study, participants were permitted to attend worship services but were required to leave the service prior to the distribution of the Eucharist (for you United Methodist the Eucharist is Communion). The Eucharist was typically celebrated at every service and not reserved for the first weekend of the month.
In the arena of youth ministry I think we (professionals and laity) have dropped the ball in two regards here:
Overall, Christian Formation is secondary thought in youth ministry.
We have completely removed sacramental theology from youth ministry.
This week on (Her)Men*You*tics we talked about Catechism or Catechesis. What does this centuries old term have to offer the church today?
Each week on (Her)Men*You*tics we’ll be tackling a theological term that you’ve either heard before or you’ve heard it doing its work in worship whether you realized it or not. We’re going alphabetically, 2 words per letter, and we’re doing it all in 25 minutes or less (except for this week because we did go over).
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