Becoming fluent in the language of Christ

Photo: Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock
Photo: Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock
Published January 26, 2016

There are 168 hours in a week. We are awake for roughly 121 of them-and those are very busy hours.

Work, sports and recreational activities, volunteering commitments, school, friendships, family time, not to mention the hours required for the regular stuff of ordering our lives-grocery shopping, snow shovelling, laundry… Everything takes its cut of our time.

Even if Christian formation, for you or for your children, is a priority, it is hard to give it more than an hour or two a week-which is a little like spending an hour or two in language instruction in the hope of achieving fluency.

I can hear the protests now, so let me agree: Christian formation does not happen only at church. And nor does language learning happen only in class. In fact, both Christian formation and language learning are more effective, more profound, when they also happen elsewhere. But neither happens elsewhere by accident.

One of the features of modern Christian life has been the privatization of faith-the idea that our religious beliefs and practices fall into the personal sphere and have no place in the public sphere. I worry that we have actually pushed the logic of that to the point where we behave as though our religious beliefs and practices fall only into the “religious sphere” of church-organized groups and activities. As a result, we have a generation of parents who want to be involved in the Christian formation of their children but don’t feel they know how. We have a generation of adults who do not know how to consider their life choices in prayer or from a theological point of view. We have a generation (at least) of Christians who cannot explain the relevance of church to their non-church-going friends and family members.

So how can we help people engage in their own Christian formation outside of church and church programming (both of which are important!)? There are many answers to that question, but one is to give them an experience of prayer that they can take away and recontextualize in their own homes.

The classic example of this is the Advent wreath. Many of our churches have a short liturgy for lighting the candles at the beginning of each Advent Sunday service and many of our families will have a similar tradition-my family does it before dinner each evening of the season. Other seasonal opportunities exist as well-Epiphany house blessings, Lenten devotions, Thanksgiving litanies, animal blessings. These are relatively easy ways to link church and home for our members and open the way to daily ones-blessings, confessions, Bible stories and thanksgivings.

There is something deeply powerful about that liturgical bridge between church and home. It reveals the truth that our faith and worship are not occasional but rather foundational to our life. Once that is truly recognized, all 168 hours in our week become time spent on Christian formation, and we can become fluent in the life-giving language of Christ.




  • Rhonda Waters

    The Rev. Rhonda Waters is incumbent of the Church of the Ascension, diocese of Ottawa.

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