COVID-19 continues to invite all of us to a time of attention, care, and concern. But, as faith communities change how they operate to respond to calls for social distancing, faith formation does not need to stop.
There are digital tools for faith formation that are already available to us — tools we may have been reluctant to use because, well, we like being together. Now’s the time, though, when those tools are a real asset.
People of faith are always re-inventing the ancient tools of spiritual practice for their context – and turning to digital media is one way we can do that now. And, by inviting people who are stuck at home to take their attention off the news for a few minutes, you’re creating avenues of care, purpose, and meaning during a time that will be challenging to the mental health of many. Faith community leaders don’t have to create new content; there’s plenty out there that is life-giving already. The work at this time for faith communities is to work the communication tools and platforms that can keep us spiritually and emotionally connected while we keep our physical distance.
Here are just a few tools that the School for Formation offers that you can access right now.
On-demand video courses via our partnership with ChurchNext
ChurchNext is an online, video-based program that offers short courses. Their courses cost little to the user — and, thanks to the School for Formation’s partnership with them, much of their content is available to ECMN faith communities and members for free. Create an account at https://ecmn.pathwright.com/ to see what we offer. Course content is available in individual form, or in ways that are structured for groups learning together.
Here are two we’d recommend as you navigate this strange and holy time:
- Make Me An Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse for Groups. Immediately applicable to our current political climate, this course was developed by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. One of the speakers is the Rev. Marcus Halley, who recently served as ECMN’s Missioner for Evangelism.
- The Gospel of John with Karoline Lewis. Dr. Lewis is a dynamic teacher and respected leader who is familiar to many of us thanks to her work at Luther Seminary and WorkingPreacher.com. As your faith community navigates Lent at home, this short course is a chance to lean into the Gospel of John together.
Please note: If your faith community wants to offer this content with an online discussion forum just for your members, we can set that up for you. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation started.
Create an account at https://ecmn.pathwright.com/ to see what we offer.
You can find even more on-demand faith formation video content curated here. https://schoolforformation.org/ondemand/
Another simple at-home formation tool you can draw on during this time? Podcasts. It’s easy to invite those in your community to stay connected to each other and to God by listening to a common podcast. I’d recommend two:
- The Way of Love from the Episcopal Church, featuring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Episodes are 10 – 20 minutes long, and include conversation with the presiding bishop and others who are leading hopeful work. A great way to remind ourselves that there is not just life on the other side of COVID-19, but good work to be done together.
- Another Name for Every Thing with Richard Rohr. A conversational podcast series that is a great way to introduce people to Rohr’s distinctive voice in religion today. “Richard is joined by two students of the Christian contemplative path, Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson, who seek to integrate the wisdom amidst diapers, disruptions, and the shifting state of our world.”
Inviting parishioners to listen along and to engage each other about the shared content – for example, on a closed Facebook group or in a videoconference conversation or phone call – is a great way to encourage people to deepen their faith during this time. It’s a thing to talk about when the telephone tree gets to them. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of additional work, either. Faith community leaders don’t have to create new content; there’s plenty out there that is life-giving already. The work at this time for faith communities is to use the communication tools and platforms that can keep us spiritually and emotionally connected while we keep our physical distance.