FORMA is the Episcopal Church’s Christian Formation network, providing ongoing support and professional development to children’s, youth, and adult formation leaders. Their annual conferences offer an opportunity for church leaders to join with their colleagues in ministry to tackle issues in the wider church and share and learn best practices in formation.

In January, eight lay and clergy members of our diocese gathered in Indianapolis with over 400 others, eager to soak up the wisdom and experience of Christian formation practitioners, learning more about what it means to become beloved community, gaining skills in introducing people of all ages to Jesus and facing our own discomfort with evangelism that reflects our deepest yearnings for beloved community. Those from our diocese who attended and are ready to share what they learned with you are Karen Peeler and Nancy Elkington, St. John’s, Worthington; the Rev. Mary Carson, St. James, Cincinnati; Brad Gough and Tommy Kirk, Redeemer, Cincinnati; Miriam McKenney, Forward Movement; Amy Howton, Becoming Beloved Community diocesan coordinator; and the Rev. Canon Lee Anne Reat, Canon for Formation.

This year’s conference, Conversations on Liturgy and Evangelism, opened with a charge from Dr. Catherine Meeks, a leader in Episcopal Church efforts to dismantle racism, to act, move, take risks and live our best lives now. Meeks recalled the story of Joseph, the dreamer. “What does it mean to have a dream?” she asked, “What is at the core?” She went on to say that racial reconciliation is not possible because we do not have deep relationships across racial divides. But, she said, we can uncover the woundedness in our nation and open up the possibility for healing. This building of deeper relationships is the core of the work of our diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community initiative.

Becoming Beloved Community remained the theme as the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, who serves on the Presiding Bishop’s staff, posed the question, “How do we reshape Episcopal culture to center on Jesus?” as she led us through The Way of Love: Practicing Jesus-Centered Living. We are excited to share that Canon Spellers will be the keynoter at our May 11 Convocation at Procter Center.

In addition to large group gatherings, a rich array of workshops was offered, including everything from music to spiritual nurture to discernment to creative worship. It really was a time for everyone who is engaged in Christian formation to learn together (and who, in the church, is not engaged in Christian formation?). The 2020 conference will be held in Atlanta in January. Watch Connections and e-Connections for details and plan to attend!

In addition to the annual conference and providing on-line resources, FORMA offers mentoring and certificate programs in Youth and Children’s Ministries, Leadership for Christina Formation, and Ministry Training and Mentoring for new formation ministers. Go to www.forma.church for more information.

The Rev. Canon Lee Anne Reat serves as Canon for Formation for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with her at lareat@diosohio.org