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Friday, January 30, 2015


 Building Relationships, Deepening Faith

So you’re here at First Trinity, a part of the family. You show up to stuff. Maybe you have a fancy certificate with your name on it, and you’ve seen The Lutheran Handbook, a cheeky book that has a picture of Martin Luther winking on the front cover. You’re kinda-sorta sure that you know what Jesus is all about and what that means for your life today.

Maybe you’ve been hanging out at First Trinity so long that you have no idea where that fancy certificate is anymore. And you know that Martin Luther wrote this thing called The Small Catechism but you haven’t looked at it in ages. But still, you’ve been around so long that you no longer feel the need to ask Luther’s favorite question, “What does this mean?”

Whatever the case is, Catechemmunity is for you because it answers the question, “Now what?”

Let’s be real, this can be a scary question to ask, because sometimes we know we would rather not hear the answer. Think about what the disciples did after Jesus’ crucifixion; they locked themselves in an upper room, totally sequestered from the world. But when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19.

Maybe you’re thinking that the difficult process of discernment and asking questions is behind you now that you’ve found a home at First Trinity. Maybe you’re thinking that this faith stuff will just figure itself out on its own.

Catechemmunity reminds us that the journey of faith is ongoing, and that we are called to attend to this journey seriously and with intentionality. When we leave our comfort zones behind and break down the walls of our own doubts and insecurities, we are able to witness to Christ’s resurrection in our own lives. Asking the question, “Now what?” is a major part of living out our faith on a daily basis, wherever we are, whoever we’re with, and whatever we’re doing.

Peace be with you as you begin this journey of faith and exploration!

The goal of Catechemmunity is to deepen your individual faith while strengthening your relationships with others at First Trinity and in the Bridgeport neighborhood. This enhanced understanding of community will lead you to a fuller understanding of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ both in the church and out in the world.

Catechemmunity will challenge you to:

  • Uncover and share stories about yourself, the Christian faith, First Trinity, and the Bridgeport neighborhood
  • Strengthen existing relationships and develop new relationships with other people and organizations 
  • Engage your spirituality in potentially new and different ways
  • Listen, reflect, learn, share, and grow
  • Take intentional time every day to engage in spiritual practice and reflect on your faith
  • Be aware of your interconnectedness with others and your common unity in Jesus Christ

Catechemmunity is a made-up word that is a combination of catechumenate and community.

The catechumenate is the very first Christian Education program started by the early church that taught new believers about what it meant to be Christian. Often it was a process that took months or even years to complete, and culminated in full membership into the Body of Christ through baptism.

The word community is a little harder to define, but is generally a group of people who have something in common. It could be a neighborhood, a religion, or a social issue or cause, but whatever that “thing” is that holds people together makes them a community. You can be a member of a community either voluntarily or involuntarily, and often belong to many simultaneously.

Catechemmunity is a synthesis of both catechumenate and community that will help you answer the question “Now what?” by looking at your own faith, life, and the ongoing mission and ministry of First Trinity in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Actively learning about your faith (catechumenate) affects how you live in the world (community); the two are intricately connected.

Catechemmunity will engage this interconnectedness by:

  • Channeling the memory of the early church as you study and learn with others about the Christian faith
  • Exploring a few of the many communities in which you are a member of, and showing how these communities are directly impacted by your actions
  • Showing that the Christian faith is one of justice, love, and serving others
  • Sharing stories of individuals and communities who have successfully integrated their faith with the structures of the world
  • Encouraging questions, especially “What does this mean?” and “Now what?”

Jesus’ commandment sounds so simple: “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” But who is our neighbor? And how can we get to know and love them if we don’t know and love ourselves first?

Catechemmunity is divided into six units that will help you understand yourself as:

  • An individual
  • A member of the Body of Christ
  • A member of the First Trinity community
  • A neighbor in the Bridgeport Neighborhood
  • A global citizen

More importantly, you will discover how each of the identities and communities listed above are interconnected with one another. Jesus’ disciples had to learn how they would find the faith to venture out into the world after Jesus’ death. Likewise, Catechemmunity will challenge you to journey from the fearful isolation and crosses of Ash Wednesday to the joyous resurrection of Easter, from individualization to interdependence.

Because our journey is only six weeks long, your participation in all sessions is vitally important. Each session will build on what you learned and experienced the week before. Our journey, just like the early catechumenate process, will culminate with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. You will have the opportunity to participate in an Easter Vigil service where you can share mutual stories of community and faith with the entire First Trinity congregation.

Catechemmunity also has an accompanying daily devotional which you are strongly encouraged to use as a spiritual discipline during the season of Lent. This devotional will get you thinking and reflecting on the themes of Catechemmunity every day, which will deepen your experience and enrich the time you spend with others.

UNIT 1: What does this mean?
February 18, Ash Wednesday
In this unit, you will learn more about what Catechemmunity is and the overall objectives of the class. You’ll discover how and why our communities and identities are so intertwined with one another, and you will also get to meet your fellow catechumens who will travel with you on the Catechemmunity journey.

UNIT 2: Who am I?
February 25
In this unit, you will engage in reflection and activities to understand yourself more fully, including your strengths, gifts, and weaknesses. You will study Biblical examples of people struggling with their identity, and reflect on your own story and identity. Through analyzing how you spend your time each day, you will become aware of the many communities you interact with and relationships you have in your daily life.

UNIT 3: What is the Body of Christ?
March 4
This unit focuses on your identity as a member of the Body of Christ as you explore the concept of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as a community. You will learn how we are called to be in relationship with one another as people of faith, and tools to help you engage in intentional conversation with others.
UNIT 4: Who is my neighbor?
March 11
This unit will focus on a unique kind of community organization: the congregation. You will explore First Trinity’s history and context and discuss its own distinct culture. As you deepen your relationships with other Catechemmunity participants, you will be able to reflect on what the First Trinity community means to you.

UNIT 5: Who else is my neighbor?
March 18
In this unit, you will be challenged to see communities and individuals in the wider Bridgeport neighborhood as being a part of your story, God’s story, and the First Trinity story. You will be reminded of the surprising ways and means in which God works to unite all of creation. You will also have an opportunity to get to know someone who was previously a stranger.

UNIT 6: Now what?
March 25
This unit will wrap up everything you’ve learned in the previous weeks. There will be time to share your Catechemmunity experiences with other participants and reflect on where God is calling you to live out your faith in the various communities of the world.

April 4
One way to answer the question, “Now what?” is, “Tell the story!” The liturgy for Easter Vigil will allow Catechemmunity participants to do just that: share the story of your shared heritage as Christians and anticipate the new life you share together in Jesus Christ with all of God’s creation.

Each Catechemmunity unit has specific objectives related to the theme. These objectives help you as a participant know what to expect for each unit, and will also provide accountability and direction for Catechemmunity leaders. You will be asked for feedback throughout the Catechemmunity journey to ensure that the program is meaningful for you now and for participants in the future.

Each unit will be structured in approximately the same way, so that you will know what to expect each week. With the exception of Unit 1 and the Unofficial Unit 7, each unit will include the following components:

Bread for the Journey (a.k.a. Food)
One of the most natural ways in which you can enter into community with others is by sharing the same table at mealtimes. Each Catechemmunity session will begin with a shared meal of simple food, inviting you to get know your fellow catechumens in an informal setting while also taking in nourishment for the journey. Please sign up in the kitchen to provide food.

Check-In Time
Catechemmunity is structured so that you will experience and grow throughout the week, not only when you are in Catechemmunity sessions. Having a designated time to check-in with other catechumens and leaders at the beginning of each unit will help you process the full experience of the journey towards resurrection; questions that were raised in-between sessions or something you’re still thinking about from the previous unit.

Weekly Theme
Each unit will be an introduction to a theme that will carry over into your daily devotional readings until the next Catechemmunity session. The theme will be grounded in scriptural texts from both the Old and New Testaments. These passages will be supplemented with other writings, artwork, activities, and experiences to allow you to fully explore the weekly theme and its impact on your life and faith. Some units will have homework or specific activities you’ll need to complete for the following session.

Spiritual Practice
Each Catechemmunity unit will include a spiritual practice component that will introduce you to potentially new and different ways of praying or reflecting on your faith. You are encouraged to continue experimenting with these practices at home so that you can ultimately discover the ways in which practicing your faith is most meaningful for you.

Each Catechemmunity unit is based on a question, and throughout the journey you will likely have other questions to ask, too. Asking questions is a key way to learn about yourself and others, and is central to the Lutheran understanding of faith. So asking questions is strongly encouraged in Catechemmunity, even if the answers aren’t so readily accessible!

Communal Worship
Each Catechemmunity unit will end in a brief time of worship and prayer. This component will be grounded in the theme for the day and give you a chance to participate and even lead worship in a comfortable, informal setting.

Daily Devotional
The experience of Catechemmunity does not end when a session is over; it is rather intended to carry over into all aspects of your life. The daily devotional readings will help you be mindful of the themes of Catechemmunity and your own journey of faith every day.

Catechemmunity isn’t just talk. It’s action that begins with you and your experience, and then moves to how you share and translate that experience with and to other individuals and communities. Just as the disciples were eventually able to conquer their fear after Jesus’ death and spread the good news all over the world, so you will be able to acknowledge your own insecurities and confront them alongside your fellow catechumens in a supportive environment. Catechemmunity is a journey you are undertaking with others, where everyone has questions and “right” answers are few and far between. You will be responsible for engaging Catechemmunity on a level appropriate to you, one that will challenge you and sustain you throughout the season of Lent and beyond.

Ideally, Catechemmunity participants will commit to and be able to attend every session. But you know, life happens, so if you need to miss one or two that’s okay, just let Catechemmunity leaders know. Because everyone matters in a community, and if you don’t show up then everyone else will wonder where you are and if you’re okay! Plus, all the awesome things that you have to share and say will be missed. Try to make it as often as you can.

If you have a friend who you think might be interested in coming to Catechemmunity with you, invite them along!

Also, each catechumen will have a sponsor who will commit to praying for you throughout the Catechemmunity process. Prayer sponsors may or may not be doing Catechemmunity themselves, but they will be walking alongside you throughout the season of Lent to remind you that you are not alone in this journey of faith. If you have a baptismal sponsor or godparent, you might consider inviting them to be this person.

Catechemmunity will be led mainly by Pastor Tom and Diaconal Ministry Intern Christine. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pitch in and help out with leadership, from providing food for weekly meals to helping lead closing worship or anything in-between. If there is a certain area or activity that you feel called to help lead, let Tom or Christine know.  

Catechemmunity is scheduled for six weeks during the season of Lent. Each session will take place on Wednesday evening, with the exception of the Easter Vigil, which takes place on the Saturday night of Holy Week, right before Easter Sunday.

February 18
6:30-7:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 1
7:30pm Ash Wednesday Worship

February 25
6:30-8:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 2

March 4
6:30-8:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 3

March 11
6:30-8:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 4

March 18
6:30-8:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 5

March 25
6:30-8:30pm Catechemmunity Unit 6

April 4
Time TBD Catechemmunity Unofficial Unit 7, Easter Vigil Worship

Every effort will be made to ensure that Catechemmunity is a safe space for you and your fellow catechumens. All participants will covenant together to create this space and maintain it through all Catechemmunity units. If you have specific concerns about confidentiality or creating a space where you can share and be emotionally open with others, please talk to Catechemmunity leaders.

Not everyone will be able to participate in Catechemmunity at First Trinity, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not involved, too! Everyone at First Trinity will be encouraged to use the daily devotional, so that you can engage anyone in conversation about something you found particularly unsettling or insightful during the week, even if they don’t actually attend the Catechemmunity sessions.

Catechumens will be recognized in worship at the beginning of the Catechemmunity process and will also be prayed for each week during worship. This seeks to remind you and the congregation that you are united in your common faith and membership in the Body of Christ.

Congregational members who cannot participate in Catechemmunity will be encouraged to be a sponsor for a catechumen, thereby participating in a very important way in the journey towards resurrection.

You and all Catechemmunity participants will also be recognized during Easter Vigil, where you will have the opportunity to reaffirm your baptism. This practice will connect you to catechumens in the early church, who were historically baptized and received into the Body of Christ during the Easter Vigil. It will also deepen your relationships with other catechumens, your prayer sponsor, members of First Trinity, and potentially other individuals in the Bridgeport neighborhood that you have come to know during Catechemmunity.

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