We, as the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, are embarking on an exciting new ministry called the Way of St. Paul. The Vestry approved the participation of St. Andrew’s, so six of us have now joined 200-plus people from around the diocese who began the training last week. The Way of St. Paul grew out of the work of our own Canon for Mission and Congregational Development, the Rev. Dr. Rob Droste, John Roberto of Lifelong Faith and Vibrant Faith, and Dr. Rollie Martinson of Vibrant Faith, with enthusiastic input from the entire diocesan staff. Each congregation forms a St. Paul Team of 6-10 people who will research congregation and community to identify needs, practices related to faith, where they are on their faith journey, where people gather with family and friends, and how faith is transmitted from one generation to another – if it is. What the research has found is that there is very little transmission of faith within families, that it’s no longer part of the family dynamic, which is a major cause of the decline in faith and communities of faith.
The Way of St. Paul is finding imaginative new ways of lifelong faith formation, including using new technologies such as social media. Some of the methods are really simple and basic such as the Taking Faith Home brochures we supply at every service. These brochures provide prayers, rituals, fun practices, suggestions for service to others, and scripture readings for the week. They offer wonderful ways for family or friends to interact in a meaningful way that encourages faith formation and relationship building for all generations. They can also be used by individuals alone. This initiative is about making disciples rather than just members. We are called to be followers – imitators – of Jesus, not members of a club.
The Team will be interviewing church leaders and observing activities in the surrounding community to gain a good picture of where the congregation is in faith formation, what’s going on around us, and to build relationships. We will partner with John Roberto, Dr. Rollie Martinson, and others at Vibrant Faith to create new ways and venues of faith formation that will reimagine how we live our faith and how we transmit our faith. The six Team members are Keith Adams, Victoria Espenshade, Jim Giquinto, Shelton Radix, Deacon Joe Sweeney, and me. Catch the Spirit!