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How We Grow In Faith

2017VBS4As an adult in the Episcopal Church can you trace where your faith took its first steps? What made it grow? Why you stayed in the church or why you came back? When you first connected to a personal relationship with God? What makes you turn up on Sunday morning for worship?

If we all shared the same answer to these questions my role at St. James’ would be easy. Recreate those steps and grow a new generation of Episcopalians to worship in and lead churches. But I suspect we all have very different answers. We may have had a family who brought us to church, we may have found our way to St. James’ from another church background or from no church at all. We may have grown up with the idea of an active relationship with Jesus or maybe we can date the awakening of our faith to a particular day or life experience.

In planning a children’s program for St. James’ I strive to create a number of opportunities and times or places children can grow in faith: by being welcome in services, by feeling at home, through lessons in Sunday school or at summer camp. We don’t use a single method of teaching in Sunday school as our team of teachers help children to hear and understand the Bible; we strive to connect with all learning styles. Our older children have started serving in church on first Sundays, thanks to the gracious support of our adult lectors and ushers. There are opportunities for children to be acolytes and to perform as full members of our community. All of these are places of connection to faith and church where faith can be both taught and caught.

In conversations within children’s ministers the question of whether faith is ‘caught or taught’ is a reoccurring theme. Can we truly teach faith or is it something that will occur if a child is exposed to the right experiences? I believe faith, like many aspects of development in young people, is both caught AND taught. Some experiences must be felt, experienced, and observed and often repeated – hearing the language of liturgy, seeing the dedication and joy of those around you, praying, and being part of a community. Others need teaching; we all sometimes need to learn, be guided through parts of the Bible or challenged to think and apply our faith.

How our own faith came about and is fed and developed is not greatly different to how we nurture the faith of a new generation and one aspect is key – repetition. A quote you can see painted on the wall of Centerville Junior High (you can see it as you drive by, it caught my eye as an old colleague used to use it frequently) says “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is a habit” (Will Durant). We all need to challenge ourselves to turn up regularly, to read the Bible, to pray, and to join in worship. Repeating these actions continues to build faith, it is necessary and important. My congregation, the children, often have to rely on parents or grandparents who value the importance of turning up, to help them develop the habit.

Faith can be neither taught nor caught in isolation and neither is nurturing it or encouraging its growth only for children. As a new program year rolls round I encourage everyone to look for ways to grow in faith, to take a class, to turn up on Sunday morning, to join in. Opportunities are available but to experience them we must first value that habit of turning up.

~ Jan Scrutton, Children’s Minister

Thank you to everyone who supported ‘In This House’, our summer day camp this year. For the volunteers, the children, those who cut out, donated or prayed for us, we are grateful.

This year a total of 46 children came to camp. Our stories came from the New Testament and reminded us that In This House (God’s House) we are welcome, safe, loved and cared for.

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