|Photo: A "Playground" in the sanctuary:
a way to include children during service
Education is central to the life of the Centre Congregational Church, UCC, in Lynnfield. Continued growth in the knowledge and love of God is of prime importance to the congregation, so their Christian education program for children and youth has as its focal point the simple goal of teaching that each of us is a beloved child of God.
“We believe our children are the present and the future of our church and of our world,” it says on the church website. “We view them as an integral part of our Christian ministry. We are committed to providing children with a warm, safe and inclusive environment, where they will feel loved and respected.”
Those aren’t just words on their website. The good folks at Centre Church have been involved in the Massachusetts Conference Christian Educators Certification Program for several years now in order to fulfill those promises. Larainne Wilson, the current Director of Faith Formation was certified by the program, and two other church members are currently participating in the program. In addition, Centre Church's Faith Formation team is also committed to hosting the program three Saturdays per year including onsite space, hospitality and church staff presence.
"We absolutely love being involved with the Certification program!" said Wilson. “We see it as vital to raising the next cohort of Faith Formation leaders in our denomination."
Wilson explained that the program helped transform her journey from a lay leader to a church staff person, and guided her to become confident in her calling to lead church programming initiatives.
“The course I took on Christian Education Administration helped me to see how my lay skills as a School Administrator could transfer to the church setting. After that, I was hooked!” she said.
“I also found that one of the courses, Theories of Religious Education, helped me to think about how to apply those theories in the practice of religious education. I was able to consider the development of a child’s understanding and how they best learn through developmentally appropriate experiences. That led to my being able to look more critically at the various curricula offerings, and pick ones that were in line with UCC progressive Christian values. I was also able to craft my own monthly “Worship and Sacraments Class for Children” from the course of the same name in the program.”
Another blessing of hosting the program at their church is the availability of the program to their own teachers and members, two of whom are taking courses. The teachers of the preschool and early elementary school classrooms are both in the program. “Our great hope is that it adds to their knowledge base and ultimately benefits them, the children they serve, and the wider church,” she said.
“The Christian Educators Certification Program is for church leaders and local church educators who wish to develop skills for creating and/or leading a progressive, comprehensive, and exceptional faith formation ministry in their local churches,” explained Debbie Gline Allen, Christian Education & Youth Ministry Consultant for the Conference. “Church educators are persons who may serve in the role of church school superintendent, director/coordinator of Christian education, pastor, other authorized minister, and/or church school teacher, for instance. The Certification indicates that the educator has achieved a certain level of proficiency as a church educator that is recognized by the Massachusetts Conference UCC.” (You can view the requirements here: What is required for Christian Educator Certification?)
It was fitting that Barbara Langill -- former Faith Formation Director of Centre Church for many years, and who was involved in the Conference’s initial Certification program efforts -- signed and presented Wilson’s certificate at the Annual Meeting in Hartford in June of 2017. Just a couple of months later, she retired from her position and passed the torch to Wilson, who then transitioned into the role of Director of Faith Formation that August. Wilson believes the program was integral in her preparation for the role.
“I became part of a cohort of people who were having similar joys and challenges as practicing church educators,” she said. “It was such a blessing to be involved."
“Here at Centre Church and around the UCC we recognize that the formation of our faith is a lifelong process,” explained Rev. Nancy J. Rottman, pastor of the church. “Among our congregations are people who were formed in a variety of Christian denominations or other faith traditions as well as people who were raised without specific religious experience. The knowledge and experience that Larainne gained through her participation in the CE Certification Program makes her an invaluable partner in ministry as we aspire together to provide faith forming worship, learning, and discipleship experiences for people of all ages who come through our doors. Hosting the program at Centre Church affords us connection to the wider church and reminds us that we are not an island but rather part of the larger body of Christ."
According to Gline Allen, the program is now open to any lay person or authorized minister in the Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island Conferences, and beyond who wishes to further their education and understanding of faith formation.
“Debbie Gline Allen has been so integral in organizing the program and we are excited to see it include all members of our denomination, not just those who are currently working in Faith Formation,” said Wilson.
You can contact Rev. Nancy J. Rottman and Larraine Wilson at the church office at 781-334-3050 or email Wilson at email@example.com. Follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/centrechurchucc.
Debbie Gline Allen reports that there will be some changes to the upcoming Fall CE Certification program. However, she welcomes your contacting her to discuss changes or to sign up for the program. You can reach Debbie at 508-603-6601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.