I’ve been asked to change my monthly column from Reflections on Christian Formation to In Formation. This new title brings with it an invitation to not just read my reflections on how God’s Spirit is moving among us – forming our faith – but also to encourage us to consider the ways in which we are constantly in formation as children of the Spirit. Let me no longer just reflect, but let us ponder together how God is forming us – and how we might continue to participate in the process.
I just returned from Overland Park, Kansas, where I attended the American Baptist Churches Mission Summit. It turns out that the Biennial gatherings of our denomination are going through a bit of a name change as well – with a similar goal. No longer are delegates encouraged to show up for lengthy business sessions, watching others conduct our business. Instead, we are encouraged to participate in the life and future of our ABC family. No longer do we attend workshops led by experts to provide tools for our congregations. Instead, we are invited into conversation with one another, sharing common struggles and ways in which God is moving amidst the challenges of the 21st century. No longer does every main preacher have grey hair. Instead, youth and young adults were present throughout the Mission Summit, both as participants and in key leadership roles, including the main preacher of the closing worship service. The larger theme of our denomination is Transformed by the Spirit, and there were signs that God’s spirit is indeed moving among our ABC family in exciting ways.
While in Kansas, I also attended a pre-biennial Theologians Conference. This was a gathering of theologians, pastor-theologians and theological educators focused on the role of the Spirit in Baptist life. We were challenged to pay more attention to where God’s Spirit might be pulling us, distracting us, stirring us to new ways of worshiping together. We were encouraged to think of preparation for worship as not just something preachers, musicians and worship leaders take part in, but something all who gather need to prepare themselves for. We were charged to reflect, following worship each Sunday, on how our larger communities experienced the Divine each week. Such ideas are surely a sign that I/we must move past merely Reflecting on Christian Formation to embracing ways in which we are always in formation as children of God, followers of Christ, and a community of the Spirit.
I look forward to the ways God’s Spirit might continue to transform us!