Formation in the Church

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On October 2nd, Rev. David Widdicombe will be offering a lecture at St. Margaret’s entitled Wars & Rumours of Wars: The City of God & The Restraint of Evil. This is the second talk Rev. Widdicombe has given on the subject. You can find the first under the sermons category on the St. Margaret’s website. One of the themes that was part of that first talk, was the need for Christians to undergo formation in their beliefs, so that they are able to deal with the consequences of their actions, and more importantly know the limits of their actions.

This same theme is what Hauerwas is taking up in the video. For many of us, this would go far beyond our understanding of what formation is about. We recently started Confirmation classes at St. Philip’s and following the basic standards of  what is required, we won’t discuss these things. Now, are confirmands are younger, so it makes some sense that our topics might not be as deep. What both Rev. Widdicombe and Hauerwas would undoubtedly argue though, is that formation is something that needs to begin before confirmation and continue long after.

Half way through the video, Hauerwas talks about how the Marines are able to transform young lives through the practice of basic training. This often results in the production of young people who are unable to relate to the rest of society. To what extent should formation, our basic training as it were, seek to transform young lives? In what way could that transformation take place so that the young people come through the process in such a way as they have difficulty relating to the rest of society?

Formation for A Different Type of Society:

Now, that last question may seem a little odd. What I mean when I say that the formation process in the church should leave our young people having difficulty relating to the rest of society, is not some sort of withdrawal. Instead I mean that as the result of their formation in the church our young people should be able to offer a critique of our society, and offer an alternative vision of society, much as Augustine does in The City of God. This will mean we will have to think long and hard about issues of war and peace. This will mean, as Hauerwas states towards the end of the video that we will need to take the time to listen. We will need to redouble our efforts to practice presence, no matter how difficult that may be.

To do this we may have to scrap much of the way in which we approach formation. Too often we break it up into little segments that we feed people along the way. We may need to re-examine Sunday School  to see whether or not it actually helps of hinders formation.  Above all we need to take more time to listen to each other. We need more time in each others company. Not participating in programs, but in developing deep, thoughtful, and compassionate relationships.