Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Lay Ministry Assembly in the Diocese of Saginaw, MI, on the topic of A Church on the Move, drawing from my book of the same name in which I discuss how a Church “on the move” thinks, functions, worships, forms people in faith, and engages the world. In the section of the book on how a Church on the move forms people in faith, I wrote:
If we are going to be a Church on the move, we need to do away with the one-size-fits-all approach to adult faith formation. When speaking about variety in adult faith formation, I’m not suggesting that we simply repeat the one program we have on different days of the week or at different times or that we multiply the number of topics covered within the same format. Adult faith formation needs to take on many different shapes and genres, so to speak, and they need not, nor should they, look like “classes.” Think outside the box, or at least outside the classroom. Drop the lecture and get creative in your approaches to adult faith formation.
I’d like you to meet someone who is doing just that! After my presentation on how a Church on the move forms people in faith, I had a wonderful conversation with Lyn Pajk, who is the Director of Faith Formation at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Midland, Michigan, where she has been a parishioner for 19 years and a staff member for 11 years. Lyn said that, after reading A Church on the Move, she got to work rethinking and reshaping the parish’s approach to faith formation for adults. Abiding by the “one size does not fit all” precept, Lyn set out creating a menu of opportunities for adults to grow in faith and discipleship, including “pop up” small faith groups for Lent, the Sacred in the Secular, a Door to Door/Heart to Heart initiative, a Laid-Back Book Club, Theology by the Glass, and more. She refers to these as “pathways to discipleship.” I asked Lyn to share in more detail about one of these initiatives, and she was kind enough to send the following description of their Theology by the Glass program.
Beginning in September, 2018, our parish, Blessed Sacrament in Midland, Michigan, endeavored to create new pathways for discipleship and thus become “a church on the move.” We are seeing that people who haven’t previously been engaged in opportunities or haven’t for quite some time are finding ways to connect with one another and reconnect with their faith. There is one opportunity, however, that I want to share with you in a little more detail, and we call it, “Theology by the Glass.”
On Wednesday, November 14, we had our very first Theology by the Glass gathering at a local winery downtown. I’m sure that many of you have heard of “Pub Theology” or “Theology on Tap,” but since our local brewery didn’t have a space conducive to small-group sharing, we made arrangements with our little winery called “Grape Beginnings” to gather on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30. The name of the establishment seems so fitting since we hoped that this gathering would be a great beginning! And it really was! Twenty-three of us came together to share what we are thankful for and how we experience the presence of God in our daily lives. We ranged in age from 24 to 80—married, widowed, and single—with Catholic and non-Catholic friends. Cody, our youngest member, had just moved to town three weeks ago, and Pete, our senior member, has been a parishioner for over 50 years! As we got to know each other over our glasses of wine, there were several amazing things that happened.
First of all, we were so wowed that Cody was brave enough to show up, and as the Spirit would have it, six members of our ecumenical young adult group were also in attendance. Their group meets on Thursday evenings, and they were able to introduce themselves and give him a personal invitation to join them the very next night. Also, there were two women there who had been on the same Christ Renews His Parish team in 1996, but who hadn’t seen each other in years. They reconnected with hugs and laughs and caught up on how their families were doing. We had also just received word that a junior in high school, a very active member of our youth programs, had been diagnosed with cancer that day. As her Church family, we prayed for her right there in the middle of the winery. It was beautiful. Thank you, God, for our parish family! There were four women who were there who have kids between high school and young adult ages who came separately but spent a good 20 minutes at the end of the evening just getting to know each other better and sharing parenting stories. One of the women shared how one of her sons had gotten on her last nerve that evening and she said, “I’ve got to go. I need a little God and wine.” She made us all laugh with that, and we considered renaming the evenings God and Wine. If only one of those things had happened that evening, it would have been a total win, but it was really more than I could have dreamed of it to be, but isn’t that the way of God—more than our imagining?
The owners of the establishment were so welcoming. It was wonderful to be able to support this local business. Next month we will gather to share about our favorite Advent and Christmas traditions. Who knows who or how many will show up that week? Maybe 10, maybe 40! But no matter who is there, just like Jesus turned water into wine, we will again turn wine into witness.
Peace and Joy,
Thank you, Lyn, for sharing your wonderful experience and your creative approaches to providing “pathways to discipleship!”