FORMATION

From the 2021 Ministry Narrative

Catechesis is so, so important these days, and we need to be mindful that everything someone gets from the church has a chance to advance their faith formation. Unlike many churches, All Saints has not abandoned instruction in favor of entertainment or thinly-veiled politicking.

For our younger members, our educational wing serves as one of the best-resourced facilities in the diocese. While we are not the biggest Episcopal Church in Montana, we’re only 1 of 3 parishes that has a paid staff position for children and youth ministries.

For much of the year, Christian Formation took place at home. We sent out wreath-making kits for Advent and pancake mix for Shrove Tuesday. Each week, Cynthia Benkelman mails children’s worship bulletins to parishioners so that young people can follow the livestreamed service from home. While some families with young children prefer to worship with their children, All Saints offers nursery care at both the 9am and 11am services should parents need an hour of reprieve.

The past 19 months have been very difficult for young children and their parents, but as they begin to return to the pews, we'll be ready for them with nursery care, children's chapel, and youth group.

This summer, All Saints hosted day camps for 2nd to 6th graders. A hiring shortage at Camp Marshall encouraged us to partner with other local agencies, including the Glacier Institute and Straight Blast Gym in Whitefish. For two weeks, dozens of campers focused on the Beatitudes and the lives of the saints, all the while enjoying camp songs, games, yoga, slacklining, arts and crafts, disc golf, water days, and story time with parishioners.

This past year, we’ve added several new offerings for adult education and formation. Our Wednesday morning Bible Study now meets in a “hybrid” format, on Zoom and in- person. The Thursday evening book group is just now wrapping up its 4th book. They’ve studied the complicated nature of the Bible with Rachel Held Evans, the afterlife with NT Wright, human suffering and the prosperity gospel with Kate Bowler, and Christian sexuality with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Throughout the summer months, the book group discussed podcasts produced by various spiritual teachers.

During Lent, we joined parishes throughout the country for “Lent Madness”, a curriculum that encourages participants to read about the lives of 32 saints and vote for their favorites. After 6 Wednesdays, we had a dramatic matchup between Benedict the Moor and Absalom Jones. Thankfully, the Episcopalian triumphed with Fr. Jones taking the “Golden Halo!”

On Sundays during Lent, Father Charlie taught a virtual class on the crucifixion in conversation with Fleming Rutledge's authoritative work on the subject. This fall, we kicked off a lecture- based adult Sunday school focused on “Women of the Bible”. This offering will cover basic stories from the scripture, address issues of gender and oppression, and add color to the narratives of some Bible characters that are often left black and white on the page.

There is much more to Christian formation than education, and parishioners have expressed a great interest in prayer workshops, retreat ministry, and classes where we survey, discover, and examine our spiritual gifts, all of which are on the table as we seek to grow in greater knowledge and love of God.