Sometimes my three-year-old daughter wants to join me for worship instead of attending her Sunday school class. On one such Sunday, I ran down the litany of things she would not be allowed to do during worship if she stayed. I told her she wasn’t allowed to walk around, crawl on the floor, or talk; she would need to sit still and listen. Innocently she looked at me and asked, “Am I in time out, Mama?”
Recently, having just taken communion, I was reflecting on the significance of the act when I was interrupted by a loud and distressed cry: “But I want some bread TOO!” Another time we were talking, and she said, “When I was born, mama was happy. And then a man poured water on my head just like on TV.” In Sunday school the kids had talked about baptism and watched a baby being baptized in church on a TV monitor.
Last week my daughter and I attended evening worship together. Playing with some quiet toys, she seemed oblivious to the worship going on around her. But when the pastor raised his hands to give the blessing at the end of the service, “The Lord bless you and keep you . . .” she turned to me and exclaimed “That’s my blessing!” She recognized the words because I give her that blessing every night when I tuck her into bed.
Many parents can recite similar stories. But as I was reading through the articles in this issue it struck me that what my daughter is doing is trying to figure out her place in the church. At age three my daughter is having her faith formed by worship, by Sunday school lessons, and by what we do at home.
But can we leave something as important as the faith formation of our children—and our own faith formation, for that matter—to osmosis and disconnected practices? What can we do to provide each member of the congregation with a spiritual road map, a narrative structure, a positive answer to their musings about God?
The theme for this issue of Reformed Worship is faith formation. You may wonder why a worship journal would focus on what might seem more like a discipleship or education topic. But as John Witvliet clearly articulates in “Shaping Souls: Starting a Conversation about Faith Formation in Worship” (p. 3), worship is integral to the formation process. The question is not whether worship is formative, but how it forms, and what kinds of ideas it forms about God, us, others, and our world.
You’ll find plenty of ideas for faith formation from real people in real church situations throughout this issue. Consider “Celebrating Baptismal Identity,” and two articles by Laura Keeley (“Celebrating Faith Milestones” and “Faith Formation: Best Practices from Real Churches”), and the popular “Come and See” by Dean Heetderks (“Milestone Markers.”)
For those particularly interested in reflecting on the practice of profession of faith, read how one church has prepared children for participation in the Lord’s Supper in “Table Fellowship: A Liturgy for Welcoming Children.” Read the moving testimony of how a young man’s faith was formed by a church, and who in turn helped form the faith of those close to him, in “What Gabriel’s Profession of Faith Means to Him, His Family, and His Church.”
It is always our hope and prayer that Reformed Worship will help each of our readers and their congregations to become better worshipers, that through worship our faith may grow and deepen. Most of all, we pray that more people will hear that final benediction at the close of worship and say with my daughter, “That’s my blessing!”
How does your church mark faith milestones? What rituals, celebrations, and symbols do you incorporate in your worship? We want to hear from you! Please e-mail your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share them with other RW readers.