“When I heard the sound of the water poured from the pitcher as the words were being spoken, the memories from the abundant use of water from the videos we watched flooded my mind.”
“I experienced the prayer time at the end of the service more intensely than I usually do.”
I warned the participants (all ten who attended our workshop on adult faith formation in early July) as we reviewed learning goal #3—”to experience rituals that might be used in your context to foster a missional ethos and welcoming spirit in your congregation”—I warned them that “Kent and I are liturgy geeks” who know firsthand about the transformative power of ritual done well, full of grace and beauty. We wanted to give them a taste of such ritual.
Built into the workshop schedule were ritual experiences that are the normal part of the typical adult catechumenal formational process, rituals that mark the transition from one stage of the catechumenal process to the next. After enacting rituals with the workshop participants in the roles of catechumens and sponsors, the participants had time to reflect individually and then discuss in the group how they experienced these tactile, aural, and olfactory rites. We ended the second day by viewing a “classic” video, “This Is the Night,” of adult baptisms administered in a large, walk-in font at a Roman Catholic parish during the Easter Vigil, followed by a video from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Bronx during their Vigil as a young adult was baptized with an abundance of water. The Service of Baptismal Thanksgiving—with baptismal invocation, song, Scripture, a thanksgiving for baptism spoken as water was poured into our make-shift font, renunciation and confession from the rite of baptism, and an extended time of intercession—began our third and final day. The above quotations are responses from participants as we discussed how they experienced the baptismal renewal ritual. I, too, had been deeply moved by the time of intercessions for the church, world, and all in need, offered by many participants and was reminded of Martin Luther, writing in his treatise The Freedom of a Christian,
Not only are we the freest of kings but we are also priests forever. This is far better than being kings, for as priests we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others … Thus Christ has made it possible for us, provided we trust him, to be not only … fellow rulers of his kingdom but also his fellow priests. Therefore, we can come before God boldly in the spirit of faith and cry, “Abba, Father.” Praying for one another, we do all things that pertain to the duties and visible works of priests.The Freedom of a Christian, Study Edition translated and with introduction by Mark D. Tranvik, p. 67.
Adult faith formation is designed to lead people to the freedom we have in Christ, who takes on all our sin in exchange for his righteousness, and who frees us for lives of thanksgiving to God and service to our neighbor.
Photo by Mark Schuler