And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb.
At times, God sets before us significant tasks and journeys. Building the School for Christian Faith and Leadership is significant enough that, like Abram and Sarai’s journey to a new life in a new place, must be taken by stages. We began in earnest in January when the diocese officially launched the strategic plan for 2025 with a mission “to draw people to Jesus and embody his love for the world by equipping faith communities, promoting spiritual growth, and striving for Justice.” We set our gaze on what we have discerned to be God’s preferred future for us, focusing on three interrelated areas: revitalization, formation, and justice.
In February, we hosted a listening session with Diocesan leaders, which offered clarity about the purpose of the School and a way forward. In March, I was hired as Special Missioner for the School for Christian Formation. Even before beginning officially, the diocesan staff and I began working closely on a few projects–first, writing a $1 million Thriving Congregations Lilly Foundation grant and second, taking first steps to clarify the mission, structure, and initial offerings of the School. If awarded, the Lilly grant will underwrite resources for a rigorous and intentional five-year program for congregations to learn, innovate, and strengthen their ministries. We will hear about its status in late fall.
Formation has been a consistent part of the life of the Diocese, reflected in various offerings over the years. The working mission statement of the School: “to inspire, equip, and empower laity and clergy towards realizing God’s call in their lives and in the lives of faith communities” continues this ministry. We envision two parts to the school:
- Transforming Leadership–equipping leaders–with offerings in finance and administration, evangelism, Christian formation, liturgy and music, and justice;
- Discipleship Catalysts–forming faith–in the areas of practical teaching, spiritual disciplines, baptismal ministry, providential relationships, pivotal circumstances.
Offerings will include webinars, toolkits, playlists, and learning paths, rich in resources and opportunities to learn, practice and connect with peers.
Our next step is to plan a soft launch of the School this fall with select offerings that both equip leaders and deepen faith. We’re excited to share this slate of webinars and toolkits in the September 3 edition of The Bulletin.
When we formally launch the School in fall 2021, we will have in place the more permanent structures necessary to support a complete set of offerings with an identifiable brand. This fall, that building work includes identifying core values, designing a logo, and choosing a learning platform. This infrastructure will support learning with opportunities to practice, collaborate, and develop peer relationships around the topics so that our congregations thrive in faith and ministry.
One of the immediate tasks for the School is to create a path of discipleship that identifies Christian practices that root ourselves in Jesus’s way of love. We’ve begun conversation with diocesan leaders to build this path with the goal of sharing it widely this November. We believe this tool will help congregations to offer and communicate opportunities for members to grow in faith. Becoming a follower of Jesus takes intentional practice. The School’s ultimate objective is to create spaces and opportunities for individuals to undertake that practice and to grow the Jesus movement.
I join the EDOW staff with a grateful heart, and I am particularly thankful that the journey of building the School is beginning within the larger vision of the strategic plan that includes goals of revitalizing congregations and pursuing equity and justice. These commitments will be embedded in the DNA of the School.
The Rev. Jenifer Gamber
Special Missioner for the School for Christain Faith and Leadership