Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

The Crisis of Lifelong Learning – From the Daily Office – May 11, 2013

From the Letter to the Hebrews:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God.

(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Hebrews 5:12 (NRSV) – May 11, 2013.)

Jesus TeachingAs I read this verse from the Letter to the Hebrews, continuing education in the faith (an “adult Christian formation” program) has apparently been an issue in the church for quite a while. There is certainly a crisis of lifelong learning – or the lack of it – in the church today!

Despite the fact that the Episcopal Church declares that Christian formation is a lifelong process in which each persons should grow in his or her relationships with God, self, others, and all creation, and encourages participation in adult education, it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in my congregation, despite my best efforts and despite the efforts of good lay people to offer and sustain Bible study groups; and if my colleagues in other congregations are being truthful, it’s not happening in other places either.

That strikes me as tragic in a denomination which has published a charter for life-long learning which asserts that God continually invites God’s People

  • To enter into a prayerful life of worship, continuous learning, intentional outreach, advocacy and service.
  • To hear the Word of God through scripture, to honor church teachings, and continually to embrace the joy of Baptism and Eucharist, spreading the Good News of the risen Christ and ministering to all.
  • To respond to the needs of our constantly changing communities, as Jesus calls us, in ways that reflect our diversity and cultures as we seek, wonder and discover together.
  • To hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people, placing ourselves in the stories of our faith, thereby empowering us to proclaim the Gospel message.

Over a year ago, my seminary classmate the Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, offered a video confession of the “failure” in on-going education in her parish. It struck a chord with clergy throughout our denomination, and in the past couple of weeks I have seen some Presbyterian and Lutheran colleagues make reference to her video on their Facebook pages, so I know that chord is resonating in the broader mainstream.

I don’t know what the solution is. What I do know, from reading this verse from the Letter to the Hebrews, is that the crisis of lifelong learning and the problem of sustaining on-going Christian formation has been around a long time!


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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.


  1. The Rev. Don Parker

    I serve as the Priest Associate for healing, prayer, and formation at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Greenville, Rhode Island.I too am frustrated with the relatively little adult formation that happens in Many Episcopal congregations. People can attend church for thirty years and never avail themselves to a formation experience! Some people will participate in a lenten program; BUT these programs often are randomly selected each year and often miss the heart of Christian living, or are not related to previous programs.

    I “Stumbled” upon this site as I was looking for a graphic that I could use in promoting our “School of Discipleship” that will offer various courses for adult formation in our parish.

    The initial question that I have is, ARE THE GRAPHICS YOU USE COPYRIGHTED AND IF SO,

    Also I would like to be connected to others involved in adult formation, and so I will look forward to reading your blog.

    Don (healing12@verizon.net)

  2. eric

    Don – Graphics … I just grab things off the ‘net. I try to grab things that are not copyrighted, but sometimes one cannot be sure. That is why I have the controls on this WordPress theme set to disallow copying of the graphics.

    As for adult formation and Christian education, you now have one of our church’s best resources working in your diocese, my friend Gillian Barr. Give her a call!

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