5 Lenten Resources to Grow in Faith

5 Lenten Resources to Grow in Faith

There is only one church season in which the faithful are specifically invited into a holy observance. That season is Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 22, Lent invites us to reflect on the times we have failed to love God, others, and ourselves. After conscious reflection, we are called to return to God.

Many resources are available to assist individuals, families, and congregations in the work of Lent. Below, you’ll find a list with five of my favorite resources. Each resource is a creative entry point into a meaningful Lent.

“40” | Simon Smith
A 4-minute animated video imagining Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Use as a discussion prompt for a formation group, family or congregation about the meaning of Lent.

Bless the Lent We Actually Have | Kate Bowler
Free downloadable guides for wherever you find yourself this season. Bless it all this Lent – the lovely, the garbage, the difficult, the heartbreaking. Guides are available for individuals and groups.

Faithful Families: Lent and Easter Reflections | Traci Smith
Lent and Easter Reflections for families from the first week of Lent, through Pentecost. Each reflection has a scripture focus, a weekly meditation, and a faith practice. The meditations and practices are most suited for younger children (Pre K – Grade 2).

Illustrated Lenten Resources | Illustrated Ministry
Illustrated Ministry offers beautiful lenten themed coloring pages, posters, devotional guides, family activities, Stations of the Cross, and many other illustrated resources based on scripture. This is a favorite for all ages!

Lenten Micropractices | Vibrant Church Communications
A micropractice is a small spiritual practice. Instead of engaging the same spiritual practice throughout Lent, micropractices are meant to give a sample across many different styles of practices. Some are active, some are reflective. They rotate through the lenten themes of praying, fasting, and alms giving, along with additional practices that don’t fit neatly in one of those categories.

Consider engaging one of these practices to deepen your faith life as you observe a holy Lent.

The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell
Missioner for Faith Formation and Development

Updated Diocesan Safe Church, Safe Communities Policies

Updated Diocesan Safe Church, Safe Communities Policies

The programs formerly known as “Safeguarding God’s People” and “Safeguarding God’s Children;” have undergone massive updates and changes at the request of General Convention. The newly titled, “Safe Church, Safe Communities” program contains a modernization of content and course offerings reflective of our needs today.

The new and improved training modules focus broadly on safe and healthy ways of being in a ministerial relationship. Content centers on subjects like healthy boundaries and power dynamics. In the past, clergy, staff, and people ministering with children and youth were primarily encouraged to complete training. Now, we encourage anyone in a leadership role to complete some of the modules. A list of diocesan required modules can be accessed on the Safe Church page of the EDOW website. Completion of all required training modules should be done within 3 months of beginning a ministry role.

The Safe Church, Safe Communities training modules are offered online through Praesidium Academy. This platform is easy to use and designed so that each parish oversees usage. A Manager is designated by parish leadership to add Learners (parish staff and volunteers) and monitor completion of required training. Learners may take courses when it is convenient without leaving home. All training is done online. In-person training is no longer offered in the diocese.

When we take the Safe Church, Safe Communities training, we commit to caring for one another. We commit to loving our neighbor as ourselves. We commit to following Jesus. Safe Church, Safe Communities seeks to promote right relationship. By committing to the training, we commit to one another. To learn more visit the Safe Church page on the EDOW website or contact Kathleen Hall or the Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell.

The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell
Missioner for Faith Formation and Development

Kathleen Hall
Director of Human Resources and Administration

Faith Formation and Development Report

Faith Formation and Development Report

Young clergy gathered at EDOW's 2022 fall clergy conferenceI have served as the diocesan Missioner for Faith Formation and Development for almost 9 months, during which I have learned about the joys, challenges, and realities of formation ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington as we seek to support rising generations.

Here’s what has my attention:

Formation Ministry at the Parish – Our diocese is blessed with formation leaders who serve rising generations within their congregations. These parish leaders come together quarterly to connect, share ideas, and encourage one another in the faith. Recent gatherings include an Advent and Christmas formation planning meeting and an upcoming overnight retreat at the Claggett Center.

Episcopal Schools – Episcopal Schools provide meaningful formation for rising generations. Many Episcopal Schools in the diocese have chaplains that support the spiritual formation of their students. One of my goals is to strengthen the relationship between chaplains and the diocese through attending and helping with chapel services, offering open office hours for chaplains and being a resource to support their ministry.

Campus Ministry – The diocese is no longer engaged in the traditional chaplaincy model at our colleges and universities. We are working to reimagine what meaningful, vibrant and consistent ministry could look like through the possibility of partnering with congregations near campuses. If you would like to be a part of this conversation, please contact me.

Young Adults & Young Clergy – As we emerge from the pandemic, young adults are eager to form connections. Some congregations have seen an uptick in young adult participation. To support parishes with young adults, I have connected with their young adult leadership and offered a young adult retreat on discernment. Similarly, our younger clergy in the diocese are eager for community, too. In order to build relationships and strengthen their ministries young clergy met on Zoom in the spring and gathered together in person at Clergy Conference this week.

Growing Young Cohort – As part of our commitment to rising generations, the diocese has partnered with the Fuller Youth Institute to launch a ten-month journey dedicated to Growing Young. Eight congregations kick-off this important work with a two-day Summit the last weekend of October. The cohort will research, discern, and do the important work it takes to ensure their parishes are places of welcome for rising generations.

Supporting these life-giving ministries fills me with joy! I know that the Holy Spirit is moving in us and among us and I am grateful to be a part of it. Moving from parish to diocesan ministry has been an exciting learning curve. I look forward to strengthening and deepening our collective faith formation and development.

To learn more about diocesan efforts to support rising generations, contact me by email. To stay up-to-date on formation offerings in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, sign up to receive Faith Formation News, an online publication delivered to your inbox the second Tuesday of each month.

The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell
Missioner for Faith Formation and Development

5 Advent Resources to Grow in Faith

5 Advent Resources to Grow in Faith

5 advent resources to grow in faith, image of an angel appearing before a woman praying

Image comes from www.saltproject.com’s Say Yes: Advent Weekly Placemat

December is just around the corner. Not only is this one of the busiest times of year, it’s also one of the richest spiritual seasons in the Church. Advent–the four weeks preceding Christmas–is a liturgical season that invites Christians to remember God’s promise that God, in Jesus, came among us and will come to us again. We are invited to slow down and prepare our hearts for this truth. Given the busyness of the season, this invitation can feel a little daunting. But, it doesn’t have to.

There are many creative resources available to assist you, your family, and your congregation on the Advent journey. Below, you’ll find a curated list featuring five of my favorite Advent resources. Each one is fresh, imagaintive, and a fun way to engage the season and draw closer to the God who draws close to us.

Advent in 2 Minutes | Busted Halo
This video could be utilized as people gather for worship, in the parish newsletter, social media, or as a discussion prompt for an adult formation group about the meaning of Advent.

Illustrated Advent Resources | Illustrated Ministry
Illustrated Ministry offers beautiful advent themed coloring pages, posters, devotional guides, family activities, shadow box theaters, nativities, ornament sets, and many other illustrated resources based on scripture. This is a favorite for all ages!

Advent RoundUp | SALT
This overview of SALT’s highlights includes poetry devotionals featuring E.E. Cummings, Mary Oliver, Pádraig Ó Tuama and Maya Angelou, as well as family friendly resources. SALT’s customizable short films and printable resources can be tailor made with your church’s name and worship times, making it easy to extend the invitation to your community.

Creating Advent & Christmas Faith Practices in a Box | Traci Smith
Gift families a way to tangibly mark the Advent season and celebrate Christmas by engaging different fun-filled practices highlighted in the book, Faithful Families for Advent & Christmas.

Gathering to Write: An Intergenerational Advent Practice | Lauren Graeber
This activity for all ages could be done individually, as a family, or as a larger community. Check out the full Advent Roundup from Building Faith here.

Consider engaging one of these practices to deepen your faith life this December. Each resource has the potential to help you remember that God is present, inviting you to follow the path to Bethlehem and hear anew the good news that God chooses to be flesh and dwell among us.

The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell
Missioner for Faith Formation and Development

Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Christian Formation Leaders Retreat

Image of the labyrinth at Claggett CenterSupporting faith formation leaders is part of my ministry as the Missioner for Faith Formation and Development. Since joining the bishop’s staff six months ago, one of my priorities has been to meet with Christian educators and formation leaders working with children and youth. These conversations informed me about how our leaders are doing and what the landscape of formation ministry for rising generations looks like in our diocese.

When asked what they need right now, leaders responded. “I yearn to feel connected,” one leader said. “I want to learn from my colleagues,” another shared. Other sentiments included a desire to hear what’s happening in the diocese and to learn how folks are engaged in formation ministry as we emerge from the pandemic. Others spoke of just needing a break. “I just want some rest,” a colleague said, “this stuff is hard.”

It is hard. Even before the pandemic, rhythms of life were changing for many of our families. In this climate, the traditional models of Sunday School and Youth Group aren’t always as life-giving as they were in the past. This means that Christian formation leaders, whose ministry is to help form young people as Christians, are shifting their ministerial approach. That takes energy, creativity, and trust in the Holy Spirit.

Communities of support – colleagues in ministry – also help. One of my goals is to create spaces where these communities of colleagues can flourish and feed one another. To this end, the diocese is sponsoring an in-person retreat for formation leaders who work with children and/or youth. Held at the Claggett Center Friday and Saturday, November 4 & 5, the retreat is an opportunity for formation leaders to connect, pray, engage, and refresh. There will be ample time for community building as well as personal retreat space. Participants will stay in private rooms at the Christiane Inn and have access to the center’s beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces, including walking trails and a labyrinth.

Retreat registration opens Thursday, September 1 through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership. Any formation leader in the diocese working with children and/or youth is welcome to participate, but please note that attendance is limited to 20 participants and registration will close once all spots are full. The retreat costs $50 and covers all your expenses for the event. I hope you will join us and be refreshed.

For more information about the retreat or other opportunities to connect with formation leaders, contact The Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell.