Sometime last spring, at a faith formation team meeting, we ran into a little snag. It was hard to get clear about what our team’s job was, what we were supposed to be doing. And we realized that was because we weren’t sure what “faith formation” is. And actually, as we kept on talking, it become clear the problem was even more basic than that. We didn’t really know what we meant by “faith” either. Well, I went home from the meeting a bit frustrated and discouraged. That didn’t get us anywhere, I thought to myself. And then, later, maybe even a couple of weeks later, I went, “Aha! Duh! What an awesome opportunity!” I realized the faith formation team doesn’t have to know what faith is. We don’t have to come up with a common definition of faith. Our job is to invite the congregation into a conversation! Our work is to create welcoming, inclusive, sacred space to share with each other the beauty of our diverse ideas about faith and experiences of faith. So that is what we did this fall in small groups. And I thank Clyde, Sandy and Melissa for joining me in leading the groups, and helping us have this conversation.
For a whole bunch of reasons I’m still trying to understand, this conversation about faith is not an easy one for us to have. It’s harder for us (maybe) to talk about faith than sex or money! It’s so important, though! Hearing ourselves speak out loud what matters to us is clarifying. Being listened to is affirming. Receiving the feedback of others helps us evolve. And, perhaps most importantly the world needs our voices. The loudest, most assertive Christian voices today are fear-based and shame-based. They are perpetuating the harm of centuries of Christian supremacy. The world needs to hear some different voices, the voices of people of faith who believe in science, who know that God loves queer folks, and who are committed to racial justice, climate justice and reparations.
I am incredibly grateful to all those who participated in these groups, and to those who are going to speak today. When people share from the heart like this, one way we let them know our gratitude is by offering our responses. What have you heard today that you want to give thanks for? What new insight or question have you encountered? Is there a gift you are taking home with you from these reflections?
This year we have a small yet mighty confirmation class – Emilia, Nyix and Kaia. It seemed appropriate on a day when the rest of us are sharing about our faith to bless them on their journey of exploring their faith. This fall they have been participating in the church’s ministries of service and justice. During the winter months, they will spend time in conversation with mentors. This spring we’ll look at the teachings of Jesus and get ready for our trip to Guatemala this summer.
So please join me now in a moment of prayer. God, we ask your blessing for Emilia, Nyix and Kaia as they learn and grow together in confirmation class. We pray for their parents, who seek to give guidance and support, while also honoring their need for space and independence. We pray for this community, that we may be a loving presence bearing witness to a diversity of ways to be faithful. May the Spirit surround and uphold us all on our journeys. Amen.