LISTENING AND RESPONDING: FAITH FORMATION IN TIME OF PANDEMIC
ERIE — “The human touch of ministry is very critical. In this new season, it just takes more planning, thought and intentionality,” said Deacon Steve Washek, director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Erie.
In a conversation with Diocese of EriE-News, Washek described the challenge of meeting the faith formation needs of parishes in the diocese as they plan to resume programming in the fall.
After a time of prayer, listening to pastors and parish ministers, discernment and planning, the Office of Faith formation has responded with a series of new initiatives designed to address these needs. Washek is hopeful the programs his team has developed will assist pastors and faith formation ministers in engaging their parishioners, despite the challenge of people not being physically together.
“Since we began our ‘Seat at the Table’ initiative last fall,” said Washek, “our rallying cry has been welcoming and belonging. We achieved great connection with parish ministers, but right now people are really feeling a lack of physical connection to people in their parishes. That prompts our desire to explore and facilitate connection in a different way.”
Online technologies have become the vehicle used to maintain and develop connection for churches, schools, businesses and families. Many people, however, have limited experience using them. Washek and his team recognize the diversity of skill levels in this area and are offering a series of classes geared to increase the comfort level of those in ministry with these digital platforms.
The Office of Faith Formation’s two-tiered “Workshop series on using online tools for faith formation” is designed to empower beginners and those with some experience in using Zoom, Google Meet and other video conference programs. These will be held on August 25 and August 26. Registration is required by Mon., August 24.
Application workshops specific to the age group for whom ministry is planned will be held September 1, 2 or 3. Although recordings of these workshops will be available for viewing after, ministers are encouraged to attend live in order to benefit from interaction.
In September, a six-week virtual course entitled: “Ministry and leadership development: A cohort for new ministers,” will be offered. Additional programs will be rolled out throughout the coming academic year and include a parish self-assessment tool for faith formation, a best practices tool, spiritual gifts inventory and training.
Ongoing resources for parish staff will be available in the spring, to assure parishes that they are meeting the needs of their parishioners at every stage of life. Program descriptions, contact information and a checklist for preparing to reopen faith formation gatherings following CDC guidelines, are available on the Office of Faith formation website.