Greetings from the
Office of Christian Formation!
January 2020 - a publication of the Office of Christian Formation
Listen. Look. Breathe.
Divine guidance. Insight. Awareness. Seeking. Following. Signs and callings.

These are the words of the season of Epiphany. In this season, we seek light, truth, and understanding. We stand at the turn of the sacred year and contemplate our location and our awareness in it and of it.

To do this, we invite you to locate the sacred in the mundane—to take an Epiphany walk outdoors and practice contemplative mindfulness.

We've included a link below to a PDF of a suggested way of approaching your Epiphany mindfulness walk. This is by no means the "only" way, but we find it helpful as a beginning.

Enjoy, and experience the simple enlightenment of walking in the Epiphany season.

the Office of Christian Formation
February Lunch & Learn
with the Formation Office!
Communications Tips & Tricks:
How to tell the story of your formation program!

Learn tips for social media presence, websites, newsletters, and sharing your program. We'll have recommended resources and what they're best used for, and also things like: when to send your newsletter and when to post on Facebook or Instagram-- all toward getting the most traffic possible! (with Megan Nolde of the Office of Christian Formation)
Thursday, February 20th

Register in advance (if you haven't already) by emailing Megan Nolde at with "2020 Webinars" in the subject line.

Provide your name, parish affiliation, title, and the email address you want to use on the day of the webinar. We will email you in advance with instructions on how to dial into the ZOOM call we'll be using for the event.
Feed your Spirit with Sierra
Lenten Practices
I once heard of a priest who puts three thank you note cards on his desk every day, and doesn’t leave the office until he’s written and mailed all of them. The people change every day, but the practice remains. 
I often plan to write letters or postcards and I often fail. I am grateful for the friends in my life who do send greetings from their travels or little trinkets that remind them of me. It is a lost form of communication in our era of instant communication and gratification. But I want to slow down - being busy is not a spiritual gift. What would my life look like if I actually wrote down when I thought of my loved ones, or if I took the time away from my mindless scrolling and used it for meaningful community building? 
For Lent this year, I am committing to writing 40 notes to friends, family, colleagues, or others who might enjoy a handwritten note with my gratitude and love. I’m nervous! This time of year often prompts me to fold in and isolate myself from the world but this practice will require me to reach out and connect. 
I also know that accountability works, and that grace is real. So I’m sharing this practice here with you and with God. I have plenty of stationary and pretty decent handwriting, so let’s do this! Please let me know if you’d like to receive a Lenten Letter. 

This Month's Promotion Packet for parishes:
Help us get the word out about:
Early Bird Rates, Staff Hiring, &
Scholarship Donations!

Use the materials in this packet for your parish's bulletins, e-news, and anywhere else you think they would work! We've even included suggested language for helping us promote these items, if you need more assistance, contact one of us at the emails at the bottom of this newsletter. Thank you so much!
Feed your Spirit with Paris
Be Rooted, Don’t Become Root-Bound

Two weeks ago, Sierra and I joined over 1200 others at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. We were there for the “Rooted in Jesus” conference: a collaboration of many different Episcopal leadership organizations from across the church. Over the course of just a few days, we were able to attend multiple teachings, workshops, and conversations all circling the questions of how to live a life of faith that is strong, growing and Rooted in Jesus. We explored leadership models, innovative ministries and teaching sessions designed to help support our work and our life at home. And we were able to hear a number of brilliant minds share their testimonies and teachings. It was a wonderful chance to learn, and I know that in the months to come there will be many fruits of that time in our offerings to you.

Today, I’d love to share a sermon that inspired as well as challenged me. The Rev. Dr. Mark Jefferson was the preacher at the “sending Eucharist” at the end of the conference, and spoke of how to keep your ministry (and faith) Rooted in Jesus, even as you move out of one context into another. Anyone who has been to a transformational camp/retreat/event may be able to relate to the struggle of how to grow outward while staying firm in your foundations. Where are the places in your faith, in your ministry, where you’ve become too comfortable? Where you’ve allowed that comfort to quiet the demands of a world in need? Where in your ministry, in your life, do you need to be pulled out of your cozy – too small – context and given room to grow? I enjoyed the images shared in this sermon, and I hope that it inspires and challenges you today as well. Don’t let your ministry become root-bound; listen for where God is pulling you out of your too-small pot this month.


Youth Ministries News!
PYM 4th and 5th Grade Weekend
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
We’ll be singing that song all over Shrine Mont April 17-19 for PYM 4th & 5th Grade Weekend. This is the first time ever that PYM has offered a retreat weekend for this age group! We will have play based learning about our theme “Let There Be Light” and a more relaxed schedule than our weekends for older youth. 
Registration will go live by Thursday, February 13. Please note that the ratio for adults to children is 1:3 for this weekend. Learn more on our website .
Weekend Facilitator Apps
Weekend Facilitator Applications are now available for the two remaining spring PYM weekends. High schoolers who have attended at least one PYM event are welcome to apply. Weekend Facilitators arrive early to event weekends and serve as small group leaders, musicians, and assistants to the program.  
All PYM committee members need to be collaborative, open to new ideas, and willing to learn and use new skills including consensus decision making, active listening, conflict resolution, creative processing, and understanding group stages. PYM membership requires commitment, creativity and maturity.
If you know if a young person who would be a great fit, please direct them to our website to learn more and fill out an application .
University of Maryland, College Park, July 7-11, 2020

Every three years, in accordance with General Convention Resolution #1982-D079, the Episcopal Church convenes an international youth event so “that the energy of the youth of the Episcopal Church can continue to be utilized in active ministry as members of the Body of Christ.” QUESTIONS? Contact Sierra Gore via email  or (804) 643-8451 x1023.
Feed your Spirit with Megan
The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration- how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”
―  Rebecca Solnit,  A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I've been reading this book for the past month-- Rebecca Solnit's "A Field Guide to Getting Lost"-- but not in the usual manner. I've been reading this book out loud, into a digital recorder, making my own audiobook of each chapter and sending a chapter a week to my boyfriend, Jeremy. He's deployed overseas with the military until early April. The deployment hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it to wade through the unknown nature of building a relationship over a long distance. Will it be worth it? How do we build trust? Make sure we're part of each others' days? Comfort each other when we're down? How do we feel connected?

Solnit's book is about the unknown-- about distance and loss. It's a meditation on those aspects of our lives as humans. The fact that I'm making my experience of distance and loss easier to deal with by reading a book about those things is not "lost" on me (pun intended).

So what's the nature of my spiritual practice right now? Reading aloud to my loved one, 7000 miles away, about the nature of distance, emptiness, and fulfillment. It's a conversation, a way for us to feel closer. He loves my voice, I love to talk to him. But it's more than that-- Solnit's words are comforting, reminding me that we have all been here, in this longing space. And that ultimately, the unknown nature of longing and transition is worth it in the end. We grow stronger, learn about ourselves and others, and come out the other side of that longing-- that Lenten season-- as better people, more ready to love and risk loss again in the future.

Mega n
The Staff of the Office of Christian Formation!
Paris Ball, Minister of Christian Formation & Director of Camping Ministry

Megan Nolde, Christian Formation & Camping Ministry Associate

Sierra Gore, Christian Formation & Camping Ministry Assistant