From the 2020 Ministry Narrative
This year called us to explore new ways of educating and forming members of all ages. For our younger members, the educational wing continues to serve as one of the nicest and best-resourced facilities in the diocese for Christian Education and the spiritual formation of children and youth. We are also one of the only parishes in the diocese with a paid staff position dedicated to children and youth ministries.
Social distancing is difficult for this age group and because parents expressed concern about their children coming back to church, we suspended Godly Play in March, out of an abundance of caution. Each week, children’s worship bulletins are mailed to parishioners so that young people can follow the live streamed services at home. For Good Friday, most children received a packet containing activities to aid them in reflecting on the passion and resurrection. Cynthia has also begun to record Godly Play modules that can be viewed at home.
All our youth activities are designed to strike a balance between Christian education, spiritual formation, and fellowship, so that our younger members can discern a sense of ministry informed by their baptismal covenant. When our regular schedule of services and activities was disrupted by quarantine, Cynthia and Fr. Charlie gathered biweekly Zoom chats so that teens could blow off some steam, play games, and check-in with friends.
While we had to cancel both of the summer day camps that All Saints offers to the broader community, Grace and Cynthia Benkelman, Fr. Charlie, and Mtr. Mikayla worked with Camp Marshall and diocesan staff to create 5 weeks of virtual programming so that elementary, junior/senior high campers, and parents had space for theological reflection, fellowship, and emotional support. These groups gathered campers and staff from as far away as Colorado, Florida, and Hawaii, and were so successful that they’ve continued to meet, even though the camp season has been over for months.
In the past, much of our Adult education and formation has been associated with our Soup Suppers, where we’ve covered a variety of themes and topics. For the seventh year in a row, we joined parishes from all over the country in “Lent Madness”, a program sponsored by the Forward Movement that encourages participants to read about the lives of 32 saints and vote for their favorites. These evenings of Lent Madness were facilitated by Adam Linton, Sue Price, Kathy Thomas, and Shawn Sloan. The last few weeks moved online as the shelter-in-place order took effect. In the end, we had a dramatic matchup between Harriet Tubman and Joshua, two saints who led their people to the promised land. In the end Harriet Tubman took the “Golden Halo”!
Last year, we hosted a Bible study on Wednesdays prior to the communion service at the Springs. Once the Springs closed to visitors, we moved this Bible Study online, where students can get a head start on some of the upcoming Sunday’s lessons (and help the Rector get some of his homework done!).
For the seven Thursdays following Easter, Fr. Charlie facilitated a virtual workshop on “Praying with icons of the resurrection”. Once we made it to ordinary time, this group shifted to an in-person contemplative prayer group focused on the practice of Lectio Divina (or “holy reading”). After a few months this group was put on hiatus until it is safer to gather and breath together. There is much more to Christian formation than just education, and parishioners have expressed a great interest in prayer workshops, retreat ministry, and classes where we survey, discover, and examine our spiritual gifts.
During the fall and winter, All Saints held its regular “brown bag lunch” book study each Thursday afternoon following the Noon service. In August, we rebooted the group as an online book study. We have nearly finished our first book, Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. We’ve had about 10 people in attendance each week and this group is the perfect opportunity for parishioners and retired clergy to share some of their favorite books. Ideally, we’d like to see this group include childcare and food so that multiple generations can gather together weekly outside of Sunday worship.