I’m prepping for my first session of a catechism class – ever. I’m teaching the Christian Faith to a group of youth through a process I personally never experienced. Had we stayed in the Presbyterian church I would have participated in a Faith Formation process prior to catechism. But since we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas when I was 9, and from the Presbyterian church (infant baptism followed by catechism at “the age of reason”) to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (baby dedication followed by Pastor’s class and baptism at “the age of reason”) I got 6 weeks of special instruction rather than a year or more. Nothing so deep as the 128 questions if the Evangelical Catechism, used in the United Church of Christ or even the new and much briefer New City Catechism.
Catechism is an English translation of Katecheo which means “to instruct orally” with a root meaning literally “to pass down”. Disciples don’t even use creeds, except the non-creed-creed “No Creed but Christ!“. We Disciples have much to say about who we aspire to be, how we believe God works in the world, and what we believe God calls us to be and do. We are less confident in speaking about God’s nature.
I’m particularly struck by the tension between the United Church of Christ being one of the more progressive (and they hope diverse) of mainline denominations yet holding to the Evangelical Catechism as the foundation for confirmation class. Granted, the particular congregation where I currently serve as Interim Pastor still relates mentally, emotionally and spiritually to their Evangelical and Reformed roots. Even so, it is interesting.
I am looking forward to prayerfully studying and discussing the confirmation class books and study guides. I’ll be reading and reflecting on the Catechism’s questions and answers and scripture references. I’m curious to see how my own faith matures and develops as I walk this ancient path with these young people, their mentors and families.
How have you experienced the tensions between teaching or learning the ancient, traditional, orthodox faith in the midst of progressive, secular, post modern cultural influences?
I resonate with the tension you’ve named. I think this is a question the church faces every generation – how to hold traditional and new insights together with integrity and authenticity.
In this particular situation, I’m an outsider interpreting their tradition with them and for their children, which is a particularly interesting dynamic.