Ritual is formative. Technology is a partner. Accessibility is a must. Formation is collaborative.
After spending nearly a decade leading Sunday school in parishes and teaching religion classes in day schools, these four tenets have emerged for me as primary ingredients to effective formation.
It is no longer the case that the village cleric can gather the crowds to impart lengthy and cryptic parables. Today’s villagers have a hard time sitting still and listening.
The crowds change from week to week, depending on seasons beyond the liturgical year. They are skiers, world travelers, hunters, participants in capitalism, and schleppers of offspring to a you-name-it weekend activity.
At the same time, today’s villagers have a need to feel invested when they do show up to a gathering. They all bring peculiar gadgets that provide instantaneous data on any subject in the world—including the one the teacher plans to engage. Today’s villagers come first as individuals, in many ways isolated from the community gathered. Yet many of these villagers yearn for structure, as the sands are shifting in practically all other aspects of life.
Today’s villager is yearning to engage, to see the world differently, to take a break from oppressive patterns, to connect in a fleshly way.
Kadosh Adult Formation at St. Stephen’s in Houston was conceived with this village in mind.
Kadosh is the Hebrew word for holy: sacred and set apart. And each Sunday, we engage holiness through the lens of a given topic. Our community chooses topics monthly via online polling. This theme takes on a different color each week of the month, providing depth for the faithful villager and a stand-alone experience for the transient one.
Though the topic may change, the liturgical structure of our formation time remains the same. Villagers are called to methodically engage from the inside out—from the self to the world beyond the village. This engagement happens through anonymous polling via text message, discussions with neighbors, interactive use of media, and collaborative reflection.
When we set out to create this structure in the summer of 2013, the lay leadership at St. Stephen’s was essential. They helped to refine, challenge, invite, and creatively brainstorm.
The collaboration produced a liturgy that looks like this:
With the framework of this liturgy, we have engaged over 50 topics, including Selling Jesus, Exorcism, Death and Dying, Scapegoat Mechanism, Easter Storytelling, The Good Life, Thoughts on Sin, and Doubt.
The Kadosh Adult Formation liturgy has also been used beyond the Sunday morning classroom: in Middle and Upper School chapel services at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School-Houston, a joint board/vestry retreat, and in the principal Holy Eucharist in the nave of St. Stephen’s during stewardship season.
For more detailed information on the liturgy, including links to previous classes, the nuts and bolts of technology and research, and a guide to implementing Kadosh Adult Formation in your village, visit our website.
The Rev. Brandon Peete is the assistant rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (@epichurch) in Houston. Brandon has served the parish since June of 2013. In addition to sacramental work, Brandon supervises staff, facilitates Kadosh Adult Formation, mentors Education for Ministry, and helps guide pilgrims in Inquiry/Journey sessions. Prior to his call to Houston, Brandon served parishes and day schools in Dallas, Bainbridge Island, Atlanta, and Tyler.