Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

  • 10 Jan 2018 10:19 AM | Christine Hides
    This post is by Traci Smith, pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in San Antonio. She is the author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home. (Chalice: 2017).  Faithful Families is a book of faith practices families can use at home to deepen faith and connection. Traci enjoys speaking to groups of pastors, parents, and Christian educators about faith formation and practice.

    I went to seminary to get the tools and training to help teach people faith, never expecting my own faith would be challenged nearly to the point of breaking. And yet, like so many others, that’s exactly what happened. The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho snuck up on me out of nowhere. Though it was more than 10 years ago now, I remember it like it was yesterday.

    I was in the basement of the Princeton Theological Seminary Library during my first year of studies, and the article I was reading was discussing how the walls of Jericho might not have existed at all in a literal sense. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the article presenting a case for there being no archeological evidence for those walls. The premise was mind-blowing to me. “Not literal walls? What?” My mind flashed back to being a small child in Sunday School, marching around in a circle, singing “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumbling down.”

    As I replayed that scene of that little girl, marching around the (actual, literal, real) walls the idea that there were no such walls was unbearable to me, and I started to cry big sloppy tears right there in the library. (Lots of people cry in seminary and university libraries, but it’s usually because papers are due the next day, not because crises of faith are commencing.)  The article about the walls stuck with me for weeks. “If the walls weren’t real, what else isn’t real? Have I been sold a bill of goods? What am I doing here?” The walls started to feel like a metaphor. My faith was crumbling, just like those walls, which (by the way) weren’t even real! I kept my thoughts mostly to myself as I trudged on from class to class, learning and reading and turning in assignments. There’s not an end to this faith crisis I can point to as easily as I can the beginning, but it did go away, eventually.

    Eventually I came to a place where I was able to say, truthfully, that it didn’t matter to me whether the walls of Jericho were actual, literal walls or whether the story about them in the Bible points to a deeper truth about who God is. By the end of seminary I was able to distinguish a theological truth from a scientific truth in a way that made my faith infinitely stronger. For me, the story turned out just fine, and the wrestling I did in seminary turned out to be an experience I would not trade for anything. I think I’m a better minister because of it. And yet, as I reflect on the my season of doubts and questions in seminary now as an adult, I wonder how it might have been different if I were better prepared for it.

    When we think of the most helpful tools for children’s ministry and faith development we often talk about age appropriate lessons, craft projects, or creative ways of telling the stories of our faith. But what about doubt? Doubt rarely makes it on any list of appropriate “tools” of the faith. And yet, we as Christian Educators and Pastors might actually serve our congregations well if we talk about doubt a bit more than we do. So often, doubt is talked about as something to get through or leave behind, rather than something to sit with for awhile as it marinates in us and transforms us. I agree wholeheartedly with theologian Paul Tillich:

    “Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” 

    It makes good sense to think about faith and doubt as two sides of the same coin. Wrestling with doubt, asking questions about our faith, and teaching children to embrace doubts is a way to strengthen faith, not tear it down. Doubt is like a mysterious muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger our faith can become. How can we flex our doubt muscles and teach children to do the same?

    Doubters and Questioners in Scripture

    Scripture is full of great figures who doubted and wrestled with their faith. In these cases, the doubts and questions end up leading to a more mature faith that can withstand storms and trials. When we teach children about these figures, we would do well to emphasize their doubts and questions, not downplay them. Here are five stories of doubters that  can be woven in to discussions about doubt. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start:

    Abraham and Sarah: God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. When Sarah learns of this promise, her response is to doubt by laughing. “Yeah right,” she says in so many words, “I’m way too old!” But the prophesy comes true and Abraham and Sarah do become parents. When do we say “Yeah, right!” to God? When do God’s promises seem ridiculous to us?

    Gideon: Gideon is one of the judges in the book of Judges who God chooses to deliver the people of Israel. Gideon can’t believe it, and puts God to the test by using fleece. One night he asks God to make the fleece wet and the surrounding ground dry. In the morning, there is so much water in the fleece he has to wring it out. But this miracle isn’t enough for Gideon. The next night he reverses the test, asking God to make the fleece dry but the ground surrounding it wet. Again, God answers the miracle. How do we test God? What does it mean when God answers us in the same way God answered Gideon? Even more challenging: What does it mean when God doesn’t answer us?

    Thomas: Thomas is the quintessential doubter in the New Testament. When Jesus is raised from the dead he wants proof. He won’t believe it, he says, unless he can actually see Jesus and touch him. For Thomas seeing is believing and he will accept nothing less. We ought to raise Thomas up, not put him down. “Do you have questions? Would you like proof? You’re just like Thomas, he wanted those things too, and he was one of the disciples.”

    Jesus: In Jesus’ darkest hour he doubted God and felt abandoned by God. From the cross he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When children or young people express doubts we can remind them that nobody, not even Jesus, has a faith that can withstand every trial or every question.

    Do’s and Don’ts for Handling Doubts and Questions in Children’s Ministry

    DO: Encourage questions and doubts. “Tell me more about that” or “Oh that’s interesting, I never thought about it that way,” or “Thank you for sharing that” are all affirming ways of hearing children and young people expressing their thoughts. Use them liberally. Don’t be afraid to follow conversations where children want to take them. I also love the idea of having a question box in the classroom where children can anonymously write down their thoughts and questions.

    DON’T: Teach that faith is not an “all or nothing” game. Some faith systems are so rigid and so fragile that questioning just one tiny premise makes the whole thing fall down like a house of cards. Remind children that just because they question or disbelieve in one area doesn’t mean they have to give up all of their beliefs. There are many different types of faithfulness. My faith doesn’t have to look exactly like yours. The pastor’s faith doesn’t have to look exactly like yours.

    DON’T: Give answers when you don’t have them. As I say in Faithful Families, the word “mystery” is a great one. I think the word mystery allows for room for a not knowing that has confidence. “That is such a mystery, isn’t it?” is a way that I answer a whole variety of questions. Another answer that inspires confidence and trust is this one: “Nobody knows.” Somewhere along the line, particularly in Western culture, we’ve gotten the idea that teachers know the answers and students are the ones who are there to receive them. Remind the children in your care that you’re there to learn together, and talk about mysteries together.

    DO: Lift up stories of those who had questions and doubts, including your own story (as you are comfortable.) The stories listed earlier in this article are a great place to start, but there are dozens of characters in the Bible and throughout church history who wrestle and doubt. Explore them together, and lift up their struggles and challenges as well as their virtues. Our heroes are complex. It makes them more interesting.

    DO: Maintain a sense of humor, joy, and curiosity when teaching. This is good advice all the time, not just when working with doubts and questions. Faith is playful, joyful and fun. There are so many lighthearted ways to approach ministry together with children and young people. Enjoy!

    So what about you? How do you handle doubts and questions in children’s ministry? Do they seem like challenges to overcome, or a wonderful and necessary part of faith development?

    Note from CEF: If you want to explore meaningful questions like these, register for Curious.Church, the 2018 CEF Conference

  • 20 Dec 2017 1:57 PM | Christine Hides

    As 2017 comes to a close CEF would like to thank all those who contributed to Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation this past year. Your articles encouraged us to explore new ministry ideas, kept us up to date on the newest books, and inspired us to be a In case you missed them, we’ve highlighted a few posts below.

    The Forming Faith blog amplifies the voices of  faith formation leaders from around the country. We invite clergy, staff, lay persons and volunteers involved in faith formation to contribute an article (or two!) for 2018. Please contact C. Hides if you would like to be a part of the Forming Faith blog. Guidelines are posted here.

    The Highlights:

    Kathy Wadsley shared coloring calendars in English and Spanish for Lent and Advent. Look for the 2018 Lenten calendar in late January.

    Debbie Kolacki posed the question, Does Sunday school have a future?”

    Lynne Smith offered ways of Nurturing Healthy Family Relationships.

    Author Traci Smith provided Tolerance: A Home Activity

    Intergenerational Faith Formation & worship emerged as a theme:

    Laura Stahl provided detailed directions for What to include in a worship activity center.

    Anglina Goldwell developed an All Ages Pentecost Lesson.

    Laura Hollinger Antonelli offered the Story of an Intergenerational Worship Service

    Intergenerational Activities for Lent were shared by Angelina Goldwell

    And the 2018 Conference Featured Line Up was released! Intergnerational Ministry expert John Roberto will be there,  will you? Register soon for the best rate!

  • 01 Dec 2017 2:51 PM | Christine Hides

    Curious.Church, the 2018 CEF national conference, features an outstanding lineup of speakers & artists. Read more about them below. As a bonus, each purchase you make through the links below supports the work of CEF.  Inspired by the lineup? Register before January 31, 2018 for the best rate!

    Brian McLaren

    Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he is developing an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors, church planters, and lay leaders called Convergence Leadership Project. He works closely with the Center for Progressive Renewal/Convergence, the Wild Goose Festival and the Fair Food Program‘s Faith Working Group.

    John Roberto

    John Roberto is the president and founder of LifelongFaith Associates, an organization dedicated to nurturing faith growth for all ages and generations in the parish and at home. John is the editor of Lifelong Faith, a quarterly journal, works as a consultant to churches and national organizations, teaches courses in lifelong faith formation, conducts workshops across the U.S., and is the author of books and program manuals in youth ministry, family ministry, and intergenerational faith formation. John is coordinator for the Faith Formation 2020 Initiative (; and also works on the Vibrant Faith Ministries team as project coordinator of the Faith Formation Learning Exchange ( 

    Mary Scifres

    Mary Scifres is an internationally-recognized speaker, teacher & author, bringing both inspiration & expertise for 21st century leadership. As a motivational speaker, Mary inspires hope with her enthusiasm, her unwavering faith in people, and her undaunted confidence in the future. With an engaging, relational style, Mary ignites creativity from the stage as well as the boardroom, helping audiences recognize and explore possibilities for themselves and their organization.

    ​As an expert in generational theory, Mary diagnoses systemic troubles that arise from intergenerational differences in work ethos and convention. Working with management teams to bridge the generational gap between older, more experienced leaders, and younger, emerging leaders, Mary unleashes the innovative potential of leaders, both old and young, and strengthens the bonds of community and cooperation.

    Carrie Newcomer:

    Carrie Newcomer’s songwriting has impressed the likes of Billboard, USA Today, and Rolling Stone, which wrote that she “asks all the right questions.” Newcomer speaks and teaches about creativity, vocation, activism, and spirituality at colleges, conventions and retreats. She has shared the stage with performers like Alison Krauss and writers like Parker J. Palmer, Jill Bolte Taylor, Philip Gulley, Scott Russell Sanders, Rabbi Sandy Sasso and Barbara Kingsolver. Newcomer has written two collections of essays and poetry as companion pieces to recent albums: A Permeable Life: Poems and Essays, and The Beautiful Not Yet: Essays, Poems and Lyrics. In 2016, Goshen College awarded her with an honorary degree of Bachelor’s of Music in Social Change during a ceremony in which she delivered the college’s commencement speech. Newcomer lives in Indiana.

  • 19 Nov 2017 6:05 PM | Christine Hides

    This post was created by Kristen Surratt, Director of Discipleship Ministries, First United Methodist Church of Belmont.

    Click here to download the detailed directions for liturgy boxes.

    One of the things I enjoy most on a Sunday morning is looking out into our sanctuary and noticing how the children are engaged in our worship service.  It is important that the children in our church are present in the corporate life of worship.  There are so many things to be gained simply by being present.  In our church, we welcome the presence of Jesus’ youngest disciples.  They are a sign that our faith is being learned by another generation.  Their company in worship reminds us of Jesus words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” (Matt. 14:19).  Worship is the perfect place for children to come and experience the love of Jesus through song and Word.  They really do hear more than we realize!

    Yet, while I know that the children are learning by being in our midst, I also recognize that worship can be a stressful time for parents who are worrying if their child is too noisy or distracting others around them.  And so, all too often, parents have a tendency to take their child to the nursery rather than keeping them in the sanctuary. 

    In an effort to help our children learn to worship, we introduced liturgy boxes this past summer.  Our children have been excited about these boxes.  Our parents have appreciated the opportunity to guide and teach their child about worship, while actually experiencing worship together. 

    While parents overall enjoy the boxes, there have certainly been suggestions as to how we can improve.  I have been asked about using a box that is not wooden so it wouldn’t make noise, but even the wooden box is intentional.  When we introduced these boxes, we asked the congregation to remember that the clang in these boxes (it’s usually very subtle) is a sign of the next generation learning our faith.  It is something to be celebrated.  But, it would be nice to add a felt bottom to the boxes to soften the noise and worry of our parents.  Other parents have said that, though they have to stop during their own worship experience to explain and guide, their child is excited to actively participate in worship, and so, it all balances out. 

    Parents have also shared with me what their children say about our boxes. “We love them!”  Another parent shared that through using the children’s Bible in the box, her child requested a Bible of her own.  For me, personally, it is wonderful to know that the box used in worship has moved beyond our sanctuary and into a home because reading the Bible at church wasn’t enough!

    As the Advent season approaches, we are working to find seasonal objects we can use in the boxes to keep them fresh and relevant to the various different church seasons.  If your church decides you want to introduce liturgy boxes, I am happy to speak with you about how we did so, where we got items, and how we plan to refresh the boxes periodically. 

  • 12 Nov 2017 8:33 PM | Christine Hides

    M. Franklin Dotts is a retired Minister of Christian Education and former Executive Editor of Children’s Publications at the United Methodist Publishing House.

    I highly recommend The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian (New York: Convergent Books, 2016) by Brian McLaren—one of the speakers at the upcoming Curious.Church 20178 CEF Conference in DesMoines—as a resource for either personal or group reflection. 

    The book is divided into three parts:

    • The Spiritual Migration: From a System of Beliefs to a Way of Life
    •  The Theological Migration: From a Violent God of Domination to a Nonviolent God of Liberation
    • The Missional Migration: From Organized Religions to Organizing Religion

    with several chapters in each. Each chapter closes with ideas for contemplation, questions for conversation, and suggestions for action.

    As he closes Part II, The Theological Migration, McClaren assures us that the message of Jesus is central to this migration:

    Through his life and teachings, in his compassionate interactions with individuals and groups, in his profound nonviolence even to the point of enduring a violent death, Jesus reveals a generous God, a God in profound solidarity with all creation, a God whose power is manifest in gentleness, kindness, and love. Through his promise that he would rise and be present in and with us, he invites us to experience God as the holy and creative Spirit of justice, joy, and peace, moving through all creation, at work in all human history, [and] present in our personal experience.

    In addition, Abingdon Press has recently released a new resource for group study — Way of Life: A Study Based on The Great Spiritual Migration — which McLaren has also created. This study includes a Participant Guide, Leader Guide, and DVD resource.

    With our dwindling numbers and aging congregations in The United Methodist Church, we need to be aware of the important perspectives that McLaren shares in these new resources.

    Looking for more Brian McLaren books? Shop through this link to support CEF. Thank you!

  • 25 Oct 2017 1:11 PM | Christine Hides

    In a world where intolerance and bullying dominates all aspects of society, including the headlines, tolerance is an important gift to give children. In Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home, (Chalice: 2017) author Traci Smith offers the following practice on tolerance. Excerpted with permission:


    The Golden Rule

    When I lead workshops, I’m often asked, “How can we raise children who are conscious of other religions and their traditions?” Usually, my answer is that people should make sure you get to know friends of other religions and learn what is important to them. Living in a religiously diverse community is a blessing in this regard. The following simple activity is another way to get the conversation going.

    Designed for Ages 5+


    1. Pieces of paper with the words of Luke 6:31 written on them (Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” in the NIV translation, but you can use whatever version of the Bible you’d like.) HERE is a coloring sheet that also works for this practice.

    2. Art supplies to decorate the page, such as crayons, markers, glitter pens, stickers, or colored pencils

    3. Poster depicting the golden rule in various religions (HERE is a link)

    Time Investment: 15–20 minutes

    How To

    1. Gather everyone together to talk about the golden rule. Say, “One of the most important things that Jesus said was that we should do to others as we would have them do to us. Some people call this ‘the golden rule.’ What does ‘the golden rule’ mean to you?”

    2. Pass out the coloring sheets and art supplies and have everyone decorate them as you continue your conversation.

    3. Say, “One interesting thing about ‘the golden rule’ is that many different religious teachers have said similar things.”

    4. Show the poster or printout of the golden rule in other religious traditions and read a few of them.

    5. Discuss the golden rule with one or more or of the following questions:

    What do you think it means that so many of the world’s religions have variations of ‘the golden rule’?

    Do you know anyone who is a member of another religion? What do you know about his/her religion? Would you like to talk with that person about the golden rule?

    Why is it important to follow ‘the golden rule’ no matter what?


    The depth of the discussion your family is able to have will depend largely on children’s ages and exposure to interfaith discussion. This activity is a great one to pull out again every few years and see how ideas have changed and grown.

    Different faith traditions and denominations have different ways of talking about other religions in relationship to one’s own. If you have questions about how to approach this topic with your family in a manner consistent with your faith tradition, consider talking with a leader in your place of worship. When in doubt, err on the side of tolerance, love, and respect.


    Consider inviting a friend of another religion over for a special meal.

    Skip the coloring part and just do the discussion. Conversely, do the coloring part and skip the discussion. Or, do the whole practice over two days.

    Post the golden rule poster in a prominent place in your house and refer to it often.

    © Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home Traci Smith, 2017

    Traci Smith is pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in San Antonio. She is the author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home. (Chalice: 2017).  Faithful Families is a book of faith practices families can use at home to deepen faith and connection. Traci enjoys speaking to groups of pastors, parents, and Christian educators about faith formation and practice.

  • 25 Oct 2017 12:57 PM | Christine Hides

    Rev. Kathy Wadsley is a former CEF Board Member. She served most recently at St. Matthews UMC in Bowie, MD. We are thankful for this resource she has freely shared. If you would like to make a donation in her honor to continue to support CEF's efforts to make member created resources like these available, please use the donate tab on this website.

    Printable Advent calendars in both English and Spanish may be printed at home, or inserted into church newsletters or emails. Each day includes a suggested activity and a symbol to color.


    AdventCalendarYearBSpanish17 (1).pdf

    Advent and Lenten Devotional Calendars Intro and Printing.pdf

    ADVENT and LENT CALENDARS Spanish web publicity.doc

    These calendars are part of an ecumenical, three-year series of Advent – Christmas and Lenten calendars based on the new common lectionary scriptures. The calendars, available in English and Spanish, are designed to encourage families and individuals to take a few moments each day to focus on the meaning of these special seasons of the church year. Each day of Advent through Epiphany or each day of Lent though Easter Sunday has a scripture reference from the new common lectionary or a related activity and a symbol which children of all ages may enjoy coloring. 

    Suggestions for use: 

    † For Families at home. 

    † Use in Sunday School as a class or weekday ministries to learn about the seasons and the symbols. 

    † Classes could draw their own symbols, write the meaning on it and make a large calendar on classroom wall or bulletin board. 

    † Color symbols with magic markers or colored pencils. 

    † Use as daily family or individual devotional. 

    †Distribute at Worship or Sunday School, in church newsletter or other ways. 

    Printing Instructions Advent Year B calendars are designed to be printed on legal (8.5” X 11”) paper and can be printed on ledger (11” X 17”) paper for larger print. The calendars are designed to be printed with calendar front on one side and calendar back on the other side using one sheet of paper. 

    Copyright: These copyrighted calendars are designed by Kathryn (Kathy) L. Wadsley, Minister of Christian Education, The United Methodist Church. Churches have permission to copy and distribute the calendars for use. Calendars may only be freely given as a spiritual formation tool and may not be sold.

  • 17 Oct 2017 5:27 PM | Christine Hides

    Reflection by Patty Meyers, D. Min., Ed. D., president of CEF

    The great artist Michelangelo believed that inside a piece of marble an angel waited to be let out for the world to see. In order to free it, the sculptor had to chip away any part of the marble that was not a necessary part of the sculpture.

    Potters know that in each lump of clay is a potentially great piece of art. They also know that it is easy to “mess up’ a piece and that the piece they envision may not turn out the way that they intend. All kinds of things can affect the outcome.

    One thing that potters can count on is interaction with the clay. The metaphor of the potter in Jeremiah 18 is a good example, but I want to focus on the partnership between the potter and the clay.

    The clay cannot form itself into a beautiful pot. The potter must work with it. Potters get clay on their hands, under their fingernails, and long after washing, it can dry the skin and the scent of the clay may linger on the hands. Certainly the potter changes and shapes the clay but the clay changes the potter too. Pot and potter are interdependent with each other. Potters aren’t potters if they don’t work with some type of clay. Pots cannot come into being without potters.

    In her seminal book, Fashion Me a People, Maria Harris asserted that as potters “fashion” clay, so Christian educators “fashion” people. God calls us to co-create the future, to make disciples, to mold the clay of human beings into the beautiful works of art that God intends each person to be. Christian educators work with the stuff of the earth – humans – to fashion people as God intends them to be.

    How are you working to shape others in the image of the Divine? I believe that Christian education and faith formation is a holy calling and as much an art form as sculpture or pottery. I don’t think that anything more beautiful exists that a person whom God shapes, molds and changes into the full potential with the help of those who teach and learn.

    As the pot changes the potter, so those with whom we work will change us. For better or worse, life will change both. Jeremiah 1:4 says that the potter formed a marred vessel into a new one, shaping it in the say that seemed best. As you work with God to fashion a people, may the Holy One and you create something beautiful.

  • 25 Sep 2017 1:27 PM | Christine Hides

    Reviewed by Patty Meyers, D. Min., Ed. D., president of CEF

    “What does it mean to be a person of faith in a violent world?” Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran asked. It’s a powerful question for Christian educators, pastors, parents, neighbors and friends.  That’s not the only hard question she asked in her book, Reset the Heart, Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope.

    Gripped by the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, she also asked:

    • “If the church’s teaching, learning, and practice of faith is purportedly transformative, then where is faith when it is needed most?”
    • “If good all along – religious formation had been happening all along – or had it? – then why the indifference, paralysis, apathy, exasperation, and even downright resistance when a calamity occurred that could have used a faithful response? (p. 3)
    • “If God is on the side of the oppressed, why don’t they win?” (p. 8)
    • “How are Christian faith communities complicit in teaching and learning violence?”
    • “What new (or renewed) practices of faith and educational leadership can help us unlearn violence and relearn hope?” (p. 10)

    These probing questions and others were fresh for her as she stood in the rain with other people of faith outside the Ferguson city hall grief-stricken, bewildered, in a public display of witness, lament, and liturgy.  What does it mean to teach for faith formation in a time such as this?

    We too easily get caught up in hand-wringing that we mis-educate. Perhaps we think that the problem is too big to tackle and don’t pull together the resources available to at least start to make a difference. We must not lose the potential for the community to come together in a redemptive way and be swept away by our despair.  Death does not have the last word in Christian theology, resurrection does.  She calls it “resurrectional, insurrectional hope,” inspired by Paulo Friere’s “pedagogy of conscientization,” which led to a “pedagogy of hope” as a generator for justice with love.

    The death of Michael Brown was one of several acts of violence, followed by deaths in New York, Baltimore, more recently in Charlottesville, Virginia and more than will be enumerated here.

    These are real questions for real people of faith that convicted me as I read. Knowing Mai-Anh as I do, I knew that she would not leave readers in despair, though that is an appropriate response to the violent times in which we live.  As a person of faith and a Christian educator, Mai-Anh draws on the collected wisdom of scholars and theologians with her agenda for “teaching toward resurrectional, insurrectional hope, communicability, redeemability, and educability.” (p.11)

    This is not “pie in the sky, airy fairy” hope, this is the work of people of faith whatever our roles are. This book is rich in its challenges, its conversations with students, laity and clergy, with utter faith that violence will not have the last word in the church or in the streets.  This age need not be known only for its violence but for the faithfulness of people who reset their hearts.  As the song from “South Pacific” (1) says: “You’ve got to be carefully taught” to hate…and if we can learn to hate, we can learn to love.  As Rob Bell proclaimed in his book of the same name, we know the rest of the story: “Love Wins.” (2) And eternal life begins right here, right now, when love wins.

    Hope is foundational for humans to “know, be, do” (the domains of learning). If we are serious about being part of the solution and not part of the problem, if we truly care about faith formation, we will join Mai-Anh Le Tran in unlearning violence and relearning hope, to which she called Christian educators in the book’s title. Without hope, there is no reason to get up in the morning. Hope is the message that people desperately need.  Let’s get to work!

    1)      “You Have to be Carefully Taught” – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”© 1958.
    2)      Love Wins by Rob Bell. © 2012 Harper One. 

  • 25 Sep 2017 1:20 PM | Christine Hides

    CEF President, Patty Meyers, shares the story of two people who were instrumental in forming her faith. This essay will be part of a book celebrating the 50th anniversary of CEF. To submit your story honoring those who impacted your faith, email

    Tacy and Wilbur were the pillars of the church in which I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They were lay  persons, not clergy. Tacy was my childhood Sunday school teacher. Wilbur taught the adult Bible study. They sang in the choir and played in the band. Their children were mostly grown-up and their hearts seemed to expand for others. I called them Gram and Gramps though we were not biologically related. They both instilled in me a love of the Bible. They helped form my faith in God and helped it to expand as I grew.

    In addition to their service at the church, they were caregivers for my family. Whatever my parents knew about parenting they learned from Tacy and Wilbur. They were generous with their time, their home, and other resources. They provided child care and support for my siblings and me in numerous ways. Wilbur taught me that men could be kind and gentle, that they could listen and wipe away tears instead of causing them. Tacy taught my mom to crochet the most beautiful beaded doilies and how to braid hair. I loved to watch Tacy take down her braids at the end of the day and brush her soft gray hair.

    My mother said that Tacy decided the day I was born that I had the fingers of a pianist, and so I did. They gave me my first piano when I was five years old. I’ve never been without a piano and have been a church musician most of my life. I started teaching Vacation Bible School at age 14. They modeled being faithful to God, to each other, and all God’s children. Because I found such comfort on their back porch swing, I have always had one in my homes. I even named my beloved Chihuahua Tacy; if it had been a boy, its name would be Wilbur.

    I could tell many stories about them. I have only one photograph of them, taken Easter Sunday 1969, which I keep near my desk to look at every day. They were both “promoted to glory” in the early 1970s but I shall never forget them. They were very important to my faith formation and my development as a woman of God.  Neither they nor their children likely knew how important they were, but their faithfulness is legendary. 

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