Tuesday, October 07, 2014

What is the catechumenate? Is it Lutheran?

Our congregation is hosting its third catechumenate this year (to learn more about the catechumenate as a faith formation practice, visit http://www.catechumenate.org). God is up to some amazingness through it. The last two years, we have seen dozens of adults affirm their baptism, multiple adults be baptized for the first time, not to mention dozens of children and infants. Those who participate in Our Lives This Text (OLTT) come away from it with a deeper understanding of their faith and commitment to the life of the church. We anticipate many being received into our congregation at the Easter Vigil again this year. It is a beautiful service to which all are invited. It rivals Christmas Eve, with candles, readings, fire, water and meal.

The New Fire at the Easter Vigil

You can join us for the next gathering of Our Lives, This Text this Sunday evening, October 12th, at 6 p.m. We begin with a shared meal. Then Pastor Clint will offer an introduction to the history of the Lutheran church and a presentation on the ELCA and its ecumenical relationships. After this, we break out into small groups for bible study discussing the gospel lesson from Sunday morning. Nursery care will be provided, and since there are so many children participating this time around, we'll offer them a mini-camp experience while the adults gather for bible study.

Many of our participants are coming to Christian faith after long absence, or perhaps for the first time. Some have past experiences having been hurt in the church, and are wary. Because of this, we try to offer during the fall a very open process, space for questions and exploration. Later, after Christmas, we intentionally go deeper, begin meeting weekly, and include welcome rites in worship that begin to connect the group more and more intentionally to the sacramental life of the congregation.

Other participants come to us because they have moved to Northwest Arkansas. They are transferring from other Lutheran churches. For them, OLTT becomes a space to meet new people, get to know the congregation, and deepen their faith.

Over the course of the year, participants in OLTT engage the core Lutheran and Christian practices of our church. We study Scripture together. We build community together around a shared meal. We match newcomers with sponsors, current members of the congregation. We center our time in the sacraments, preparing for affirmation of baptism or baptism at the Easter Vigil. We give our participants a copy of the Lutheran Study Bible (http://store.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/8222/Lutheran-Study-Bible) and the hymnal, so that they are formed in the rich resources of our faith. In some ways, the process is like confirmation or catechism for adults.

The "curriculum," if you want to call it that, is liturgy and life. The whole process is focused on our worship and on Scripture. Sometimes we call this ministry of Word & Sacrament. It's the way Lutherans practice faith. And then, centered in that faith, our lives are poured out in service and love in the world.

Everything is structured to make space for the new in our midst to have a place, and for our congregation to attend to them.  It keeps our attention focused, like a laser, watching for opportunities to invite new people into the process. Making the welcome of newcomers central to our faith practice as a congregation has the double benefit of being a positive experience for newcomers, and also changes the existing congregation, reforming us continually to stay focused on the most essential aspects of faith.

If all of this intrigues you, consider volunteering this year as a sponsor. Or if you are reading this invitation for the first time, wondering whether life at Good Shepherd is a good match for you, join us Sunday evening to just check things out. We really mean it when we say ALL are welcome.

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