By Bishop Todd Townshend
The season of Lent is often taken as an opportunity to grow more deeply into a life of faith.
As the liturgy for Ash Wednesday puts it, Lent leads us to the central celebrations of Easter, as “we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery.” (BAS p. 281)
The “Paschal Mystery” is everything that pertains to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is the core of our faith, the only thing that ultimately matters—it is the process of dying and rising, death and new life.
We see this all around us and in our own lives. God can make us new in this life. God wants to breathe life into every kind of deadness. So, we delight in this season of spiritual opportunity.
To make the most of this opportunity, I am encouraging all parishes to establish or deepen their ministries of faith-formation. Together with worship, it is the central activity of the church. The ancient catechumenate, beginning in the stories of the bible (Acts, Galatians, etc.), has always been a way for individuals and families to plunge into the language and culture of the church—which is to plunge oneself into baptism and a life in Christ.
A “catechumen” is a person who receives instruction in the Christian way in order to be baptized. The rest of life is a “mystagogy”, a renewing and deepening of life in the wonderful mystery of God.
This is not a mystery in the sense that the way in unknowable. The way is well known, but the God with whom we engage is mysterious—never fully known. So, within this creative tension, all Christians come to be more mature disciples, living in faith. The purpose of any kind of catechumenate is to give us — those coming to baptism or those who are already living a baptismal life — a thoroughly supportive and encouraging environment.
There are many ways to provide this environment. I will be eager to hear, over the years, all the ways you’ve found. There are people who are trained and experienced in these ways right here in our diocese—they are ready to help.
There are also fantastic resources like “The Way of Love” (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love/) and “Revive” (https://revive.forwardmovement.org) which can be used by anyone in our church. Resources to support this central work are being made available to you—even now!
When we come to Easter this year, I pray that your faith will have undergone some kind of “reawakening” or “rekindling”. Each Christian finds that faith can ebb and flow with different seasons and circumstances of life.
I encourage you to ask in your prayers for the gift of a deepened faith. I will be praying for this, too.
Blessings of the season.