Pastors and congregational leaders in the LCMS face new missional challenges in our “post-Christian” context. This conference will introduce participants to a model of adult faith formation and discipleship with roots in the catechumenal practices of the early church. Through presentations and conversations with pastors who have developed successful adult faith formation, participants will explore new ways to form disciples through catechesis; to shape Christian identity through the biblical narrative and the sacramental life of the church; and to foster a habitus of hospitality in congregational life.
This conference seeks to develop a broader congregation approach toward adult faith formation. For those looking for the right “new program” to revitalize a congregation, this conference may not be for you. We try to avoid using the word “program” to describe the adult catechumenate for two reasons. First, at the Capstone Event for participating congregations in our first grant, our consultant was adamant in his closing remarks that pastors should not enter into this venture by announcing a new “program” and setting up a committee. We trust his wisdom. Second, the term “program” implies a pre-packaged plan with step-by-step “best practices” that will yield measurable, numeric results. We make no such claims. Careful readers will notice words such as process, journey, and model to describe what is going on at the three exemplar parishes whose pastors will share their experiences with participants. This adult formation process exhibits significant flexibility with regard to any particular parish context.
- Dr. Kent Burreson is the Louis A. Fincke and Anna B. Shine Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean of the Chapel at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He has taught across the systematics curriculum and shaped the worship theology and practice of future pastors for over twenty years. In addition to the catechumenate, he writes and provides resources on natural (green) burial. Discussing the history of Reformation and post-Reformation worship, worship and culture, and the theology of worship energizes him. Since he is the father of both a Millennial and a Gen Z daughter, he thinks he knows something about worship formation with those generations (but they’d probably tell him how authentically deluded he is).
- Dr. Rhoda Schuler, a rostered LCMS deaconess, is a Term Professor of Theology and Inter-Disciplinary Studies at Concordia University – St. Paul, the institution with the most diverse student body in the Concordia University System. Her students include devout LCMS people preparing for work in the church as well as a range of students from other or no faith traditions. She strives to make the academic study of the Bible and church history interesting to the uninterested and is encouraged by research that shows some young people “discovering” the beauty of the liturgy and experiencing the mysteries of God through ritual.
- Dr. Scott Bruzek, senior pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Illinois, has two decades of experience developing an adult faith formation process that focuses on making disciples and making them stronger by bringing them into orbit around Christ. https://www.stjohnwheaton.org/#home
- Rev. Timothy Droegemueller, senior pastor at Living Faith Lutheran Church in Cumming, Georgia for fourteen years, has structured an adult faith formation model which “teaches people in a high paced, high stress, high tech age to abide in Jesus our Savior through every storm of life.” The journey begins with “an open ended study in the Bible where people can immediately begin growing together around the Word of God.” Living Faith structures the catechumenate around the one-year lectionary. https://www.livingfaithlutheran.com/home
- Dr. Dien Ashley Taylor, pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Bronx, has tended and nurtured this diverse flock since 2001 and reached out into the neighborhood to draw people into a congregation that “by God’s grace, is a praying community of service that receives, teaches, celebrates and shares Christ Jesus.” Redeemer uses a similar catechumenal pattern both for youth and adults. http://www.redeemerlutheranbronx.org/index.html
- Rev. Danny Eggold, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Lafayette, Indiana since 2016, is actively morphing an adult “membership class” into a catechumenal process informed by the early church and the contemporary context. Pastor Eggold was one of four pastors “mentored” through Drs. Burreson and Schuler’s first project on the adult catechumenate in 2018-19. https://www.gracelaf.org/
Participants of this conference will
- Hear first-hand from the pastoral leaders about the structure of adult faith formation in their parishes and its strengths;
- Engage in Q & A sessions with the pastoral leaders about the processes of inquiry, discernment, catechesis, and integration of new disciples into the Body of Christ;
- Explore how ritual and holistic catechesis inculcate a discipleship with retention power;
- Learn how robust adult faith formation might impact the life and missional identity of a congregation.
The conference is designed
- To familiarize participants with the adult catechumenate model of the early church and show its relevance for our contemporary context;
- To introduce participants to successful models of the catechumenal process in three distinct congregational settings;
- To provide new insights into faith formation and catechesis for adults;
- To examine rituals associated with adult faith formation and explore ways in which these rituals impact not only the catechumens but congregational identity and ethos;
- To provide resources for implementing a catechumenal process;
- To explore ways in which an adult faith formation process can foster a habitus of hospitality in congregational life.
What the cost of this virtual conference?
It’s free for parish pastors, commissioned ministers, and lay leaders of LCMS congregations.
What virtual platform do I need to participate in the conference?
All participants will need a strong Internet connection and should download Zoom on their computers before the conference. Here’s the link to get the free version for participation: https://zoom.us/
Why is it free and who is sponsoring this conference?
This conference is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. Drs. Burreson and Schuler collaborated on a Vital Worship Grant project in 2018-19 that identified and studied several congregations with a vibrant adult catechumenal process. This current grant is designed to bring their findings to the wider church through a series of conference for LCMS pastors and lay leaders.
Where can I learn more about the initial study and its findings?
Drs. Burreson and Schuler presented their initial findings in October 2019 through the Hoffmann Lecture at Concordia University – St. Paul. You can watch their lecture here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ynrqzecc9GSYQO_XmevkzeYNFL38kJCJ/view
I’ve got Zoom fatigue from attending so many virtual meetings. What’s the schedule for the conference?
The conference begins Tuesday, January 12, 2021. at 1:00 pm central time and concludes at 3:00 pm on Thursday. The planning team has scheduled generous times for breaks through the day. You can access the full schedule here.
Do I need to attend all of the sessions?
We strongly recommend attending all of the sessions in order to gain exposure to the breadth and depth of a strong catechumenate, to understand the context of each congregation represented in the main presentations, and to explore issues and questions of particular interest to you through the breakout sessions on Thursday. However, we realize that parish responsibilities may impinge on full participation.
I don’t see anything about COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic has created. Will you be discussing how the catechumenate works in the context of COVID-19?
The planners are taking the long view; at some point we trust that we will again be able to worship together in our church buildings, to share the Lord’s Supper and practice catechumenal rituals with fewer COVID-19 safety precautions, and to meet for Bible study, prayer, and all the face-to-face activities that build up the Body of Christ for the sake of witness to the world. Nevertheless, the pastors will address the current situation briefly in the panel discussions and the final presentation on Thursday will include some summative reflections on the topic.
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