If I were a sketch note artist, Alister McGrath’s book "Christian Theology" would be at the center of the page. This thick tome of a book was one we all moaned over and thought we’d never finish – but it was also the centerpiece of what we did. Each week we reflected on the chapters we had read, sharing our perspectives via Haiku, a learning platform that is really a social network for students. Our platform pictures came to life when we all met in Chicago for a week-long intensive in a former Catholic Convent. There’s nothing like life size statuaries of Catholic saints lurking around blind corners to create instant bonding! That and a dream team of Formation teachers: Vicky Garvey, Andrew Kellner, Shannon Kelly and Randall Curtis. We all sat together and often hung on every word of the stimulating conversations we had at mealtimes and breaks.
The actual class time would not be easy to sketch note because too much was said and experienced to make it on to paper. When you start off each day with a bible overview taught by Vicky, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that! She embodies the words of St. Francis, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary”. Andrew led us through theology, no easy task, and gave us a model for developing Ministry Plans; along with an assignment to write one. Randall was the whiz kid of all and taught us so much about marketing, branding, and using technology in our ministries, that if our Facebook pages don’t look better, well we didn’t listen! Shannon taught us the history of the Episcopal Church and prayer book--and enriched our understanding of the diversity and richness of our tradition. Night socials with guest speakers and a field trip to the Diocesan Offices in Chicago kept non-class hours filled. And yes we did…take the now infamous selfie with Bishop Lee (seen above).
The sign of a good course is that the learning continues even when the class is done, and I am still learning! I have resources that I will reference for years to come. I have a group of core colleagues with whom I have forged lasting friendships. My own “FORMA Forever Friends!" But just like we structure environments for the youth and families in our parishes to grow in relationship with God and be moved by the Holy Spirit, we who were in this course grew in our faith and were moved. Our days began and ended in prayer. The multi-colored, battery powered tea lights we received in our “swag bags” at check-in found their way into evening prayer. One person brought one light the first night. The next night there were a few more. At our final evening prayer, the floor in our midst flickered with soft colors as they shifted and changed red to yellow to green to blue to purple; transforming a stark nave with a vibrancy that seemed to awaken the prayer-steeped space. It was emblematic of the transformation that had occurred not only within us but among us. When you live, eat and learn in community, you become a community…and we still are.