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What is the role of catechism in our churches?

What is the role of catechism in our churches?

Leroy Huizenga offers interesting perspective on the role of cathechetics, writing on Krista Tippitt’s blog, On Being. While his piece centers mostly on practices in the Catholic Church, I’m interested in how Episcopal churches are incorporating old-fashioned cathechism into religious education. He writes:

Experiment: Think of any youth group experience you’ve had or known of in the past couple decades. Are youth workers having their kids memorize and really study the Bible, or is it more about games and songs? The Word abides — thinking of AWANA here — but I think it’s safe to say that most youth groups are more about fellowship, community, safe spaces, and good experiences than developing serious knowledge of the Bible.

Third, even where doctrine wasn’t intentionally marginalized there was a sense that simply knowing the teaching and going through the motions wasn’t enough, that one’s faith must be one’s own faith. I’m thinking here especially of the Catholic Church in the middle of the century. Whatever Vatican II was, it was certainly a call for all Catholics to embrace the faith with their whole beings.

But I think old school catechetics are helpful, and it’s good to see them making a comeback.

Read the entire piece here and share your thoughts.

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Bill Dilworth

I've heard of, but am not familiar with, either Godly Play or the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but agree with Josh and others that an either/or approach is not the answer.

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Mary Caulfield

I've hesitated to enter this conversation, as I've felt a bit intimidated. But since Josh brought up Godly Play, here I go. Godly Play (and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) are structured around both doctrine *and* openness to questions. The simplicity of the Godly Play language is deceptive, but if you read Jerome Berryman's "The Ten Best Ways" alongside the 1979 BCP section of the catechism on The Ten Commandments, you'll see what I mean. Teachers who are schooled in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd learn two things: to structure their presentations around points of doctrine and then - importantly - to observe and listen to the child. I don't see these doctrinal points as "all I know and all I need to know," but rather as a starting point for deeper questioning and contemplation.

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Josh Magda

What about the 1979 catechism alongside living the questions, or godly play? sOr what about teaching kids contemplative prayer alongside doctrine? I'm on the side of the argument that says that most kids, especially young ones, should have a structure- that the structure of our religion can be and should be a gift-it is a beginning point, not an end point. The problem, is that much in the existing structure is unhelpful and/or irrelevant. What about supplementing the traditional stories with some of the stuff from Thomas Berry about the scientific creation story as grace? It doesn't have to be either or. I do think, however, that our 79 catechism is among the best currently out there, even as it needs theological expansion, and the best isn't nearly good enough. But there are times in life when it is important to know the Truth that God is Love- and as C. says, that this Truth is rooted in ontology, and not only in our subjective experience, which can falter. In any other area of life, historical, even financial, I think our kids have a right to the truth. If it is the Truth that the universe is not an ontologically meaningless junkyard, but an epiphany of Divine Love, and that this Truth in the words of Captain Hook is "far too much fun" to prefer a lie, then our kids have a right to know it, and we have a responsibility to teach it to them.

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Bill Dilworth

Clint, it's just plain old Mr Bill ("oh, noooooo!").

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Clint Davis

To be honest with you, Fr. Bill, I can believe very easily that Jesus Christ is the self-revelation of God. However I find that much, if not most, of Christianity is an attempt to deal with and explain what the hell it all meant. The Holy Spirit, breathed out upon us by Jesus, moves us along very well and empowers us to walk into tricky situations and fix it by our witness, when this witness is met by even just a little tiny fragment of faith, just like Jesus himself did. Jesus never promised that we would be able to figure his very essence by voting on Greek philosophy at the command of (competing) Imperators and Patriarchs. I don't personally have the conviction that I must trust the outcomes of those votes, nor those votes that came before, nor those votes that came later, with the exception of the vote to include Gentiles, because that vote in itself was the very work of reconciliation that Jesus died carrying out. His work literally killed him. But wait, his death became a sacrifice of reconciliation, and the bread and wine are still the body and blood that we can eat as a result of this sacrifice, and so we can continue on with his work. This is why I'm such a hard-ass High Churchman, because that's the only thing I can really trust, that the Body and Blood are the axis around which all the rest of the work of reconciliation continues. "Other than that, Mary, how was Passover in Jerusalem?"

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