In early June, I attended my second eFormation Learning Community Conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. The main focus of the conference is providing clergy and lay leaders with the tools they need to communicate and educate Christians in the new electronic environment. Our St. Paul Team has begun work in this realm, through its Christian Formation website, Facebook discussions and Instagram for the church. (@st.davids_cranbury)
I don’t believe that electronic communication will ever, or should ever, completely replace in-person community. That being said, I do believe it is a tool that can be used to enhance the community we already have and are building up. I love having daytime and evening discussion and prayer groups—but by their very nature, they limit the participation of many who either cannot drive at night, work during the day or have childcare responsibilities in the evening. Having information and learning/gathering opportunities that don’t require getting in a car and driving to Cranbury can enhance all of your journeys of discipleship. This can also be an evangelism tool that can be shared with friends and family. Many folks outside of our parish accessed the information on our Lenten Gratitude website.
Our diocese has partnered with an organization called ChurchNext, which is an online learning environment. It is headed by The Rev. Chris Yaw, the rector of an Episcopal church outside of Detroit. St. David’s has signed up and we will soon have an online school of our own. There are many ways to use this to enhance our Christian Formation program. We can take a class as a group either in person or on our own and then gather and discuss it. Our vestry will be “road-testing” this over the summer as they take an online class and gather in August to discuss together! Thanks to a donation from one of our members, our church will soon be equipped with a flat screen “Smart TV” which will allow us to connect to our ChurchNext school here at church and also show Utube videos and movies through the internet. I am excited that we will be entering into this new age of formation together!
In person outreach into our community is also very important, and a great idea was shared at the conference. It is called “Free Prayer” and is similar to “Ashes to Go”. The idea is for a clergy person to head out to a local coffee shop and set out a sign that invites people to ask for prayer. Imagine that! Well…I am going to try it. Starting in August, I will be spending an hour or two each week in a local Coffee Shop, probably Teddy’s in Cranbury, to begin with, and making myself available for prayer. I will post on Facebook when I am there, so please stop by and say hello! Taking the church into the public square is essential for our mission and purpose: “Welcoming all in the loving Spirit of Christ, through faith, worship, nurture and community”.
Blessings to each of you for a wonderful summer,