Lift Every Voice – A sneak peak at Cape Town

A Sneak Peak of Cape Town, South Africa

Lift Every Voice is a three-year ministry designed to build an understanding of social injustice that will help participating young people develop a vision and skills to lead their dioceses’ programming around race and inclusivity.  The second year, Lift Every Voice, 2016, will be held at the Christian Brothers Centre near Cape Town, South Africa, July 3-10, 2016. The focus of the conference for 2016 will be on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process, strengthening our “listening skills” of others’ stories and discerning how to respond to these stories as disciples of change.

Here are some informative links including the video above introduce you to the beautiful town of Stellenbosch, though we will not be visiting any wineries! Several other links are documentaries on South Africa’s history, on Apartheid and on the Townships in Cape Town. Review our itinerary to identify some of the places we will be visiting while in Cape Town, such as Robben Island, Table Mountain, Waterfront market, Townships and more. Useful Links

Follow the Lift Every Voice group as they travel to Cape Town, South Africa this summer by joining the Facebook Group.

For more information visit the Lift Every Voice Website.

How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma

Previously posted on Rows of Sharon.


I have just returned from the 19th Annual Forma Conference in Philadelphia, and it occurs to me that our Church can learn much from how this organization for Christian Formation leaders in The Episcopal Church has been behaving lately.

We’re always hearing about the decline in church membership, the “graying” of those in the pews, and younger generations who are choosing to stay away – preferring to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” These past few days in Philadelphia gave me time to reflect on what was different (and exciting) as I listened, watched, and rejoiced in what was going on all around me.

First, a little history. Most of my adult vocation has been in Christian education on a parish, diocesan, or church-wide level. I’ve seen decline in church attendance, alongside the budget cuts of formation positions (and education funding) on all church levels. I’ve been a Forma member almost since its inception (which began in 1997 as NAECED – the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors), joining when I was a part-time Church School Coordinator.

Forma Leadership in 2002 in New Orleans

I’ve been to at least 15 NAECED/Forma conferences, with my first one in New Orleans in 2002. There were about 40 people present and all our sessions were together in a small hotel conference room. We were all women (with maybe two men), mostly lay folk, and most involved in children’s ministries. And we were aging – just like the church in general. We did not represent the diversity that exists in our communities. As years (and annual conferences) went by I was beginning to wonder if there was a future generation to follow in my footsteps, or if the vocation of Christian education was to go the way of the dodo bird (and maybe organized religion).

Today the organization remains the same: same purpose, same passion for formation. But different. And in ways the Church can learn from.

FoIMG_0006rma is now almost 600 members strong from all over The Episcopal Church and beyond. We are lay and ordained, volunteer and paid, gay and straight, racially diverse, and representative of almost all dioceses, even outside of the United States. And we’re growing.

In the early years, the organization struggled. Leadership was within a small group of individuals, although the group always tried to broaden the base. Conferences were more like a get together of friends for support, inspiration, and a time to get out of the trenches for refreshment and fun. With a conference held every year, it was always tough to break the 100 attendance mark. Membership stalled, with a difficulty in maintaining its peak of 200 or so.

So what happened for this growth to occur, at the same time budgets and positions were being cut on all levels of the Church? I have some ideas:

  1. Communication. Members invited others to join – and gave a reason why. Personal invitation and networking fed the hunger that individuals had as their ministry (that was not getting much support financially on the local and diocesan level) was burning them out.
  2. The organization changed its name to better represent its growing membership from NAECED to Forma – acknowledging that Christian education and formation involves children, youth, and adult formation. Youth ministry, adult ministry, seminaries, camps and conference centers, publishers, non-profit organizations, and all orders of ministry (lay and ordained) are called to the ministry of formation.
  3. Leadership (always elected) was broadened with specific terms of service. Nominations were open in a process of invitation that led to more diversity in its Board of Directors.
  4. Dioceses provided membership dues for church leaders. And many provided scholarship to attend the conference. Perhaps the funds that might have gone to diocesan programming was channeled here (one would hope).
  5. It was not clergy centric, but diverse in leadership roles, including preaching and keynoting at conferences.
  6. Social media was utilized to the fullness: an up-to-date website, an open Facebookgroup (now over 1,200 and counting), Pinterest page for sharing ideas and resources, a list-serve for communication, and an active Twitter account.
    Forma Forms
    How are you being formed? Forma “swag” (Silly Putty) that was giving out at the Forma booth at General Convention 2016.
  7. Advocacy. Presence at General Convention to speak to issues related to the formation of God’s people – budget cuts, safe church training, seminary education, spanish translation of resources, supporting camps and conference centers as a place of formation, baptismal ministries including the Rite of Confirmation, and social justice issues. Forma became a force to be reckoned with and recognized as
  8. Partnerships were formed to support one another: DFMS staff are active in presence as well as support – offering workshops, scholarships, displays, and mentorship. The organization reached out to seminaries (students and faculty) to participate as their voices were needed.
  9. Forma stuck to (and finally) implemented one of the founding purposes of the organization: offering certification and education for those in the ministry of Christian Formation. In 2016 individuals graduated from the Certificate in Youth & Family Ministries program (in partnership with Seabury-Bexley Seminary) and individuals received the Certificate for Leadership in Lifelong Christian Formation after completing a rigorous program and capstone project in partnership with Virginia Theological Seminary. Two scholarship funds are now established: Janie Stevens Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Lifelong Christian Formation Certificate Program and the Youth & Family Ministry Certificate Scholarship Fund.
  10. The membership was willing to welcome the stranger in our midst. Hospitality is a core value at conferences and members take it upon themselves to welcome newcomers.
  11. We prayed together, creatively and traditionally.

Forma is now set to forge ahead, perhaps as a model for the rest of the Church. With seed money from General Convention as well as its own strategic planning with membership pledges/donations, it is ready to hire its first Executive Director. See the position description here.

There are many individuals who have brought the organization this far. From its “founding mothers” who gathering in 1997 to form an independent, non-profit group within the Episcopal Church to lift up the ministry of Christian education to today’s Board of Directors, the future is hopeful. As I looked out on the full ballroom as everyone gathered for dinner that first night and listened to articulate individuals ask questions during workshops, I saw that a dream born by many almost 20 years ago had become a reality.

Those of us who’ve been ‘around awhile’ need to step out of the way, offer our presence, support, and experience (when asked), and hand things over to the next generation. If you build it, they will come. But build wisely and inclusively; let others know  who you are, what your purpose is, and how they can participate in making a difference.

_MG_0139_5x7Previously posted on Rows of Sharon.

Sharon Ely Pearson
Author, Editor, Christian Formation Specialist
Sharon Ely Pearson is an editor with Church Publishing Incorporated, joining them in November 2007 as their first Christian Formation Specialist. Prior to joining CPI, she was the Children’s Ministries & Christian Education Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut for ten years.

Lift Every Voice, 2016 Application Open

image001Lift Every Voice is a three-year ministry, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, designed to build an understanding of social injustice that will help participating young people develop a vision and skills to lead their dioceses’ programming around race and inclusivity. The second year, Lift Every Voice, 2016, will be held at the Christian Brothers Centre near Cape Town, South Africa, July 3-10, 2016. The focus of the conference for 2016 will be on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process, strengthening our “listening skills” of others’ stories and discerning how to respond to these stories as disciples of change.

LEV 2016 Application Form for US Applicants

Download Flyer for LEV, 2016

Applications are due by Dec. 15th. Primary consideration will be given to youth aged 16-22. The 2016 application is open to all; those who attended last year and apply will have priority. Any available spots will then be open to adults through January 6th, 2016

Contact: Beth Crow, Lift Every Voice Coordinator 1-919-208-0438

Apply now: SUMMA Theological Debate Camp

SUMMA Student Theological Debate Society is accepting applications for the 2016 session of SUMMA Debate Camp.

61a3d86c-c169-46ca-83f2-e5fdc47ca33bSUMMA Student Theological Debate Society is inviting high school students across the United States entering grades 9-12 to apply for the 2016 session of SUMMA Debate Camp, July 18-27, 2016. Held at the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., SUMMA is an incredible opportunity for students to explore their faith through intellectual channels, meet lifelong friends, and have a lot of fun on one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country!

At SUMMA Camp, students learn skills for debate, public speaking, and theological exploration. They room in the dorms, eat in the university dining hall, attend lectures and seminars at the School of Theology, and they have an enormously beneficial intellectual experience. They also swim, play sports, watch movies, go bowling, and have lots of great, summer fun!

Click here for more information and to apply.

Contact: Rev. Cindy Fribourgh at or (501) 580-9066



Advent Devotional Series: Following the Star Returns

Star_square_300dpi(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) – Following the Star, the devotional series for Advent and Christmas, returns to Passport, Inc.’s devotional website November 27.

This series features scripture, prayer, and meditative thoughts accompanied by gentle music. Writers, including Kyle Oliver and Linnae Peterson who represent the Episcopal Church, have centered their thoughts on the classic themes of the season. Following the Star features a collection of piano arrangements from Ken Medema, Mark Hayes, Joseph Martin, and David Burroughs. The musical reflections provide a familiar and gentle backdrop that accompanies the daily devotional.

Following the Star is part of the year-round devotional site,, a ministry of Passport, Inc., and sponsored ecumenically by Passport, Inc., Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the Episcopal Church’s Youth Ministry Office of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. hosts daily devotionals and three seasonal series for Lent, Advent, and the beginning of the school year, as well as over two million visitors annually. Daily devotionals are available on the web, and through the free iOS app.

Download Following the Star Bulletin Insert.

If you are interested in writing for d365, please send sample devotions to the Missioner for Youth Ministry, Bronwyn Clark Skov.

Official Youth Presence Progress Report

General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015

General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015

When many of us received the acceptance letter to be part of the General Convention Official Youth Presence 2015, we were ecstatic. It is such an amazing honor to be a part of this group of extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and ambitious youth.

So what exactly is the Youth Presence? We are a group of 18 youth that have been chosen to voice the opinions and views of the youth population of the Episcopal Church. Because of this incredible responsibility we were required to attend training for this convention.

During the first day when most of us arrived, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. A few people knew each other from previous church youth events, but it was still a new experience. When we arrived we all quickly got to know each other through several exercises to “break the ice.” These activities included asking questions about where we want to travel, where we live, and to what congregation do we belong. One of the most helpful activities was the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile. This tool included taking a short survey about how you handle different scenarios. This not only taught us how our personalities work, but also how our peers’ personalities work. It helped us to learn about one another and learn about how each personality can bring out the greatest potential for the 2015 General Convention.

Along with scheduled “break the ice” activities, during break time the kids would get together and get to know one another on a personal level. There was an ease to getting to know everyone that was very much appreciated. The openness of the youth as well as the adult leaders made for a comfortable environment. After getting to know each other, we then learned all about how the convention works and the different committees in an interactive way. It was a lot of information at once, but the diverse teaching styles that were offered by the adults made learning easy and fun. Next, we had a brainstorming session to decide on different topics that we can bring to the table at General Convention, such as more funding for summer camps and more college scholarships from the church. This was very helpful because we all heard each others’ passions and were able to work together to find a balance. Through this we learned about how the Episcopal Church has been working in other states and countires besides our own. Of course, we also learned about expectations: dress code, attitude, and the importance of drinking water. All of these things were told to us in interactive ways which was really cool because it kept us focused and helped us to engage in conversation.

With all of the work, we also had time to explore Salt Lake City. The mountains were gorgeous. Some of the youth had never seen snow in person before, so the snow covered mountains were a sight to see. The whole group, youth and adults, were able to walk around Salt Lake City to visit where we would be staying for Convention as well as the Convention Center, where we will spend most of our time. Along with this sightseeing, we also visited the Mormon Temple which was a very fun experience. The flowers were in full bloom and it was a perfect place to get some sun and fresh air.

All in all, orientation for the General Youth Presence was extraordinary. We are all very excited to participate, listen, and represent the youth population in the Episcopal Church. We have a group of youth that cannot wait to share in this wonderful experience and learn a lot along the way.



General Convention Office Youth Presence Bloggers

Sydney Norman, Levi Thompson, and Amanda Zorrilla

Sydney Norman

Sydney Norman

Levi Thompson

Levi Thompson

Amanda Zorrilla

Amanda Zorrilla


SUMMA is an opportunity to make your summer worthwhile.

–Ginny Greer, Little Rock Central High School ’15

SUMMA-08-Finalists & Prize3SUMMA, a student theological debate society, is a weeklong camp that will be held at the School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States. From July 21 through 29, high school students will gather from all across the country to learn critical thinking skills, debate theological topics relevant to today’s culture, and form life-long friendships. The camp’s classroom atmosphere is college-like with challenging lectures and stimulating seminar discussions. Teachers include a specialist on the relationship between theology and science, English and philosophy professors, clergy, and theologians.

SUMMA began as a pilot project based in Arkansas. Now, SUMMA is a banner program of the Beecken Center of the School of Theology. SUMMA was founded in the confidence that knowledge and reason are foundational to faith. Learning how to question claims, ask for evidence and examine warrants frees us from the grip of fashionable thinking. Discovering the range, subtlety and rigor of Thomas Aquinas, for example, or Karl Barth’s sly humor and imagination, may incline one to take commonly held assumptions with a dash of salt. While attending SUMMA, students learn the art of the debate because debating leads to clearer and more careful thinking, and clearer thinking opens deeper pathways into faith, hope and love.

SUMMA is fun! Laughter is resonant in the classrooms and the dorms. The students take breaks for soccer, basketball, and games. Movies and bowling are also part of the experience.

SUMMA is spiritually enriching. The day begins and ends in Sewanee’s beautiful Chapel of the Apostles, framing work and play with prayer and contemplative reflection. “Speaking truth in love” is a practice followed throughout the time at camp.

In SUMMA, four skills are taught that are spiritually important:

  • How to think carefully, imaginatively and fluidly
  • How to express oneself more clearly
  • How to explore faith in relation to science, history and philosophy
  • How to argue lovingly

On the first day of camp, an interesting and important resolution is announced that will be debated. Through the next five days, the resolution is researched while students learn how to build an argument and defend it. On the sixth and seventh days, it is vigorously debated.

As a program of the University of the South, a university owned by 28 dioceses of The Episcopal Church, SUMMA is grounded in the Anglican tradition. However, its approach is ecumenically Christian. SUMMA is open to students of any faith (including “none”) who are curious about Christianity and would like to better understand it. SUMMA can be an exhilarating and eye-opening intellectual experience for any young person curious about building their faith through intellectual channels.

Applications are ongoing and are open to high school students entering grades 9–12. Scholarships are available. For more information and to apply, visit


About the author: The Rev. Dr. Christoph Keller, III currently serves as the interim dean and rector of Trinity Cathedral, Little Rock, Ark.

About the Photograph: Annie Meek of Little Rock, Ark., and Karnessia Georgetown of Jackson, Miss., with Keller. Georgetown was the first recipient of the SUMMA Prize, given to the camper who best combines skill in debate with the spirit of “speaking truth in love.”

Wired for Risk – Why the Church Needs Teenagers

BrainMy friend and colleague David Burroughs is the President and Founder of Passport, Inc., the organization that helps the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship produce our popular online daily devotions at Today I share a recent blogpost of his reflecting on the science of adolescent brain development. David makes a wonderful argument for the natural and necessary intersection of science and religion in terms of youth ingagement in our faith communties. I am grateful for his reflections and encourage you to share your thoughts and comments.

Every so often, my family sits around and laughs at our kids’ favorite Vine and YouTube videos. The ones that garner the biggest laughs are of course, the ‘fail’ videos: kids jumping off sketchy ramps or crashing through doors. We watch these and think, “What were they thinking?”

A better question might be, “How were they thinking?” 

Here’s the link to David’s original blog post; I invite you to read, inwardly digest, and enjoy!



In Central Africa, youth council to strengthen ‘backbone of the church’

Central AfricaThe Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) has appointed its first ever Youth and Children’s Council at a conference where young Anglicans were described as “the backbone of the church”.

The Council was formed on the final day of a Provincial Youth Leaders Conference held in the Lusaka, Zambia, on the 5 and 6 December. The Council’s mandate will be to oversee issues affecting children and young people across the Province.

Bishop of the Diocese of Upper Shire in Malawi Brighton Malasa is in charge of youth across Province. He told the more than 50 delegates gathered at Lusaka’s Gospel Outreach Centre: “There are a lot of issues affecting the people in church and most of these affect mostly the youths because about 60% of the people that come to church are youths.”

He added that young people “play an important role in helping the church move to greater heights because they have the energy and potential”. The bishop urged them to “use their energy and potential to build the church of God.”

Diocesan Youth Co-ordinator for Northern Malawi Tiyanjana Banda said the “whole church should be founded on the youths because they are the backbone of the church”, adding that “if not for the youths, the church would be gone by now.”

He said, despite the challenges that the youths face in the church, “we have managed to live to the church’s expectations, but if we are given more chance and room to fully participate in church life, we can do more.”

Youth Co-ordinator for Zambia and conference co-ordinator Fr. Robert Sihubwa said “Investing in the youths on spiritual issues of the church will ensure that we have a society that walks in the fear of God, and a society that will preserve what God has given to it”.

To this end, the youth conference formulated and adopted a Youth and Children’s Policy to ensure consistency in youth and children’s ministries across all the countries and dioceses in the Province and it also saw the election of an Interim Executive Committee. The conference also created a Provincial Youth Fund that will be maintained through donations from young people in the different dioceses.

Fr. Sihubwa said “We have decided to introduce a Provincial Youth Fund because we have noticed that accessing resources for youths and children has not been easy, so we would like a system where the youth themselves begin to generate their own resources to run their programmes.”

The conference delegates were so excited and enthusiastic about the formulation of a new Provincial Youth Office with many of them pledging contributions of money and other resources to make sure that the office is operational as soon as possible.

The CPCA’s Bishops Conference decided to organise the conference, Growing the Church Through Youth and Children Ministry in order to assess how much the youths have contributed to the church and also address the shortage of mission and evangelism that the church faces in the Province. Prayer, singing, dancing and sharing of experiences and challenges faced by youths in the province, characterised the event.

Highlighting the importance of the conference to youths in the Province, a young Anglican from the Diocese of Botswana Tumisung Fifing said the conference had helped them “create links with the different dioceses in our province.” She added, “The conference has also given us a chance to exchange cultures and ideas.”


Article from Anglican Communion News Service