Formation and Small Groups

by Stephanie Spellers

The following is a description of Christian formation in the context of The Crossing, an emergent community associated with the Cathedral of St. Paul (Episcopal) in Boston.

Before worship one Thursday evening, a group is discussing Richard Hooker and Anglican theology in a small group titled “Episcopal Church 101.” After worship on the same night, students from nearby Emerson College come to take part in a forum on sexuality and faith. This is formation at The Crossing, helping people to understand and claim our traditions even as we bring faith to bear on the most urgent questions in our context.

Forming disciples is one of the most ancient mandates of the Church. From the beginning, small groups of Jesus’ followers gathered in homes to ‘continue in the apostles’ teachings and the prayers.’ Small groups are one of the most important places for discipleship formation in a context like ours. Our Minister for Community Life and other leaders have been trained in principles of community organizing in order to listen deeply to people’s longings and big questions. Then they facilitate the formation of small groups designed to help people at various stages to live out our faith and follow the Way of Jesus in every area of our lives.

How does this look in action? In a six-month period, members organized a catechesis class (Episcopal Church 101), a three-part forum on faith and sexuality, ongoing covenant groups based on our Rule for Real Life, a book study on prayer, a bible study in a local bar, a centering prayer group, and a regular prayer service in the park across from the church in summertime. A group also launched Urban Adventures to explore our Boston context and build relationships with each other.

In each instance, we acknowledged the importance of small groups and formation to every vital Christian community. But the shape, times, content and leadership? Those must be formed by context.

How does context inform your small group formation offerings?

Stephanie Spellers is lead priest at The Crossing, the emergent community based at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston. An acclaimed preacher, she is the author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other and the Spirit of Transformation and co-editor of Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition.

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