At Good Shepherd we talk about "faith formation": not just filling the head with facts, but helping each other become more and more the faithful people God invites us to be. Faith formation is a lifelong process. Those of us who were baptized as children get to spend the rest of our lives living into what that means. Those of us baptized later in life get to experience the joy of learning about the Christian faith on the way to baptism and then continuing to live our faith from there.
Some of this happens through learning basic content: What is the Bible, and what is it for? What is The Book of Common Prayer, and why do Episcopalians use it? Who is Jesus, and what does he have to do with God who created everything? And how can we claim to know and understand any of this in the first place?
But some of it happens through practice: weekly worship together, personal prayer at any time, a habit of continual learning, and relationships that affect our understanding of God. We do such learning both in age groups and intergenerationally.
Children are always welcome in worship, no matter their age. Indeed, our weekly worship together is our primary source of faith formation. Kids learn how to be in church by being in church. And if they're noisy, know that the sound of their voices is music to the ears of many older folks!
The Lamb's Pen
Prior to the pandemic, we were able to staff a childcare room during our 10:30 worship service for babies and toddlers. This may be possible again someday, but not before children under 5 can be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Far from being a typical Sunday school program, Godly Play is a wonder-filled, story-centered approach to Christian faith formation primarily for children ages 3-10. We tell sacred stories from the Bible to help children become more fully aware of the mystery of God’s presence in their lives. Children are encouraged to respond to the stories through play and art as they come to know God in ways that are specific to their stage in life.
Now that children ages 5–11 are being vaccinated against COVID-19, we hope to resume Godly Play sometime in 2022.
Our young people in grades 6–12 are involved in all aspects of worship and community. They participate and grow in faith as they serve in our weekly worship. They are also invited into a network of opportunities for youth regionally, through frequent events shared with other Episcopal churches and through other organizations like Camp Huston, the Episcopal summer camp and retreat center in western Washington. Youth who serve in the church or take part in regional youth programs are learning important life skills as they deepen their trust in God's guidance.
During our quarantine, we identified Wednesday evenings as a perfect time to hold classes for adults online. Many of these have been banked on our YouTube page, and you can subscribe and watch them anytime. The Delta and Omicron variants have prevented us from holding on-site classes so far, but we will see what the near future holds. Look to our calendar to see what events are happening currently.
It's a funny, made-up word, but it describes well what work lies ahead of us as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about our vision for intergenerationality here.
Dismantling Racism Together
The quarantine year of 2020–2021 saw Good Shepherd launching an initiative called Sacred Ground in conjunction with new friends at Calvary Lutheran Church. We learned together about the history of systemic racism in the United States and how we might start to dismantle it. The Sacred Ground curriculum comes from the office of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. We may run this class again in the future; in any event, we will be guided in our ongoing efforts by our diocesan Covenant to Root Out Racism.
The great first-century Christian bishop Saint Augustine famously said, "When you sing, you pray twice." Music is an area that lends itself especially well to intergenerational formation. Our small but spirited Chancel Choir returned in November 2021 and is currently recruiting new members. The group is assisted by choral scholars from the University of Puget Sound.
Safeguarding God's Children
All Good Shepherd parishioners who work regularly with children, and anyone who holds a key to our buildings, must stay current on a certification called Safeguarding God's Children. Our Safeguarding policy works to ensure, for instance, that no child is ever alone with an adult in church settings.
Learn more about the Episcopal Church.