By Rev. Lisa Wang
In the ancient Church, a “catechumen” was someone on the way to becoming a Christian.
After an extensive course of instruction and formation, catechumens were integrated into the life and mission of the Church through the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist.
Catechumenal ministries are ministries of learning inspired by the process engaged by catechumens. To put a diﬀerent spin on Christ’s parable, you could say these ministries are like old wine in new wineskins!
Taking for our inspiration this ancient program of formation and education, we invite all Christians to grow into a deeper life in Christ.
Why old wine? Consider for a moment the way Jesus himself formed his disciples.
• He invited them into relationship with him.
• He taught them who God is.
• He taught them the gospel’s way of love.
• He taught them how to pray.
• He revealed to them the mysteries of the Kingdom.
• And he sent them out in mission.
The things that Jesus taught his disciples are the very same things we have learned (and are still learning) as Christians today. They’re like a fine old wine. And they’re not meant to be hidden away in a dusty cellar! They’re meant to be shared and savoured, for they bring us life.
The things that Jesus taught us are meant to be known, prayed, lived, and celebrated each day of our lives.
Why new wineskins? While much education still takes place in traditional ways, not all learning happens in a classroom. The kind of learning we’re talking about — growing deeper in our life in Christ — happens over a lifetime, among those in diﬀerent stages of their lives, and among those of diﬀerent backgrounds and interests, diﬀerent gifts and graces.
We all learn in diﬀerent ways. Traditional ways of learning are, of course, eﬀective and remain very important. At the same time, we also need new ways of learning that can reach everyone, no matter who or where they are.
What doesn’t change are the things Jesus teaches us: the things we need to keep on learning. We need to let Jesus show us who God is, and how to follow his way of love in the world. We need to let Jesus teach us how to pray, so that the Spirit can be at work in us and through us. We need to let Jesus meet us in word and sacrament, in symbol and song, in ritual and gesture, in one another and all creation. And we need to let Jesus send us out into the world so that he can give it his own life. We need to let Jesus reveal the Kingdom.
How are these things taught and learned in your congregation or community? How are they known, prayed, lived, and celebrated — or do they need to be, more fully and abundantly? Do you need old wine in new wineskins? Or is a lively catechumenal ministry already happening in your church, parish, or deanery?
Rev. Dr. Lisa Wang is the Developer for Catechumenal Ministries for the Diocese of Huron.