FORMA is a group committed to the ministry of formation in the Church. Last week I was privileged to participate in the group's 2016 conference at Philadelphia.
This is a growing group. It began about 2 decades ago with a dozen people. (It seems to me that Scripture indicates that is a good starting number). Two meetings ago there were just shy of 300 members. Last week there were 590 members and almost half of those present at the annual conference. This kind of growth gives evidence to the recognition of the need for good formation in the church, as well as to how well FORMA is organized and led.
Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas was the keynote speaker. He called us to step out of old ways and into new. He made the case that the model of formation/education that worked in the last century will not and is not working now. In one cogent phrase that is staying with me, he stated: "Nostalgia has nothing to do with reality." He challenged us not to mistake what we do gathered around the altar in church at liturgy as 'doing the mission.' Those moments are, rather, the time and place in which we are strengthened, nourished, and sustained to go beyond the church walls and continue doing the mission anew. Echoing others who have urged the same, Bishop Doyle reminded us that the way folks enter into realities in their lives today is by this trajectory: Belong. Behave. Believe. If we begin by offering children and even adults answers to questions that they have not yet posed, little is accomplished. You can find more of what Bishop Doyle is preaching to the church at this website: http://www.amplifiedchurch.com.
The other speakers at the general session, different voices hailing from diverse contexts, together offered a vision of what it means to continue to be formed in Christ as we go on living. Jerusalem Greer, Broderick Greer, and Bronwyn Skov spoke independently, but together weaved a tapestry of the present moment in the life of faith and in formation. You can learn something about these three leaders at these websites:
And now a word of shameless advertising. John Roberto of Lifelong Faith Formation, whose name came up in some of the workshops at FORMA, is coming to the Diocese of Long Island on Saturday, May 14, as the presenter at our annual Faith Formation Day. John has been deeply involved in the present and future of faith formation, with constant and profound creativity, for the past 25 years and more. We are indeed blessed to have him coming. Registration online is now open at http://tinyurl.com/FFD2016. And to learn more about John's recent work, visit http://www.reimaginefaithformation.com/ If you are at all interested in the present and future of Christianity, you need to be here on May 14.