This week we begin a new series entitled, “Where to Begin?” Where do you begin if you are planning to initiate an adult catechumenal process in your congregation? I believe the Roman Catholics have some insights to offer Lutherans. They have been at this for a while with the renewal of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as a result of the Second Vatican Council. While every parish has to have an RCIA process, they have learned how to establish an effective catechumenate in a parish. The most important observation about beginning a catechumenal process is that it is about transformation, the transformation of a Christian community from a consumer-oriented, maintenance spiritual life as a congregation into a congregation of intentional, witnessing, living disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not begin with the expectation and hope for change and transformation in congregational identity and life, then you will not be able to make a beginning of it. The catechumenate will become just another program among a list of other programs and emphases that the congregation offers. Ultimately the catechumenate is not only about the transformation of inquirers and catechumens but about the transformation of the entire community of the baptized.
Such an orientation toward transformation requires vision. So the best place to start is to imagine and establish that vision. Leisa Anslinger provides a helpful overview of the process for establishing that vision in her book A Vision for Conversion: Eight Steps to Radically Change Your RCIA Process (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018). The primary orientation of the vision should be toward “an encounter with Christ and to living discipleship” (2). To facilitate that ultimate vision she uses the work of Harvard Professor-emeritus John Kotter to outline the creation of the specific vision for a particular congregation:
- Establish a vision.
- Create a vision team.
- Make your vision a reality.
- Share your vision.
- Remove barriers to your vision.
- Keep your vision alive.
- Make your vision last.
Crucial to this process is the involvement of the vested leaders of the congregation. It is essential that those vested leaders collaboratively create this vision and realize the nature of the transformation that is possible by establishing this vision for a disciple-making community. In order to facilitate this vision she advocates for using an Appreciative Inquiry process (6) with the congregational leaders, the congregation, and with the local community:
- Discover: What is your current experience or practice? What is already working? What stories come to mind to capture this experience or practice?
- Dream: What is your vision? What are your hopes, dreams, and goals for this vision?
- Discern: What should be? What needs to change in order to move from your current practice toward your vision?
- Do: What will you do to bring about the change you have discerned?
The Word of God should play the central role in forming this process and shaping this vision. More on that next week. By following this process of discovery and visioning the transformation of the congregation from a maintenance orientation to a disciple-making orientation begins. In that space a catechumenal process will take root and begin to grow.