By Beth Conkle
The Anglican Catechist Training School is currently wrapping up its fourth year of training catechists for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. This year, there are eight students enrolled in ACTS: Katie Tjerrild, Joel Young, and Christina Pestana from St. James, Nancy Gomez from Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rachel Conrrique from St. John’s in Petaluma, Chris Thomas from ADSJ’s church plant in Reno, and Taban Duku and Margaret Douglass from Jesus the Good Shepherd in Henderson, Nevada. There are two students currently enrolled in year 2 of ACTS and will be licensed as Lay Pastoral Catechists: Harlan Young (St. James) and Delmas Gault (St. John’s).
This past Memorial Weekend ACTS held its annual retreat at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center in Three Rivers, and this event indeed represented a milestone for ACTS in many ways. Catechists from every class of the ACTS School were represented (Jeanine Werner, 2018, Mary Giles and Sandra Simon, 2019, Delmas Gault, 2020) along with several clergy who have enthusiastically supported ACTS since its beginning. Fr. David and Betty Miller from St. John’s, our own Fr. Carlos and Carol, and our Bishop Eric. Also in attendance were Fr. Noah Lawson (St. Alban’s Los Banos), Dc. Erin Giles (Jesus the Good Shepherd in Henderson) and our beloved Fr. Anthony, all three who serve on the ACTS Leadership Team. Also present were Avery Meyer from Holy Cross in Sanger, Barbara Lyles from OLG, and Mark and Wendy DeRaud from St. James. There were twenty-six people in all. Due to the pandemic, the ACTS class met solely via Zoom this year, so the retreat was the first opportunity for students and instructors to actually get to meet each other face-to-face.
Our guest speaker, Fr. Ryan Jones from Eucharist Church in San Francisco, shared his vision and experience of building a church as a culture of catechesis for all its members, including children, life-long church attenders, newcomers to Anglicanism, and newcomers to the faith. According to Fr. Jones, the goal of catechesis is Christoformity: the process of individual and collective formation into the image of Christ. All of life is to be lived in reference to Christ and his purposes. In addition to catechism classes and discipleship, Christoformity occurs over a lifetime as members participate in the worship, sacraments, mentorship, and spiritual disciplines together.
Each evening we would gather for worship and prayer, led by Carol Raines. We not only experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship, but God’s Spirit was also evident in the profound love and unity we enjoyed with one another and with our Roman Catholic hosts at St. Anthony’s, who went out of their way to make sure we had all we needed to have a beautiful Eucharist service Sunday morning.
Throughout the weekend, spontaneous prayer and conversations took place to strategize catechesis for the congregations throughout our diocese. Paula Velez joined the retreat all day Saturday, and during the afternoon free time, she and a few other catechists discussed ways to meaningful and purposefully catechize our children with the goal of making them full, participating members of God’s church who themselves will live for Christ’s Kingdom. Others prayed and discussed forming a diocesan catechist guild for which each congregation would have a chapter.
On Sunday morning, we had a beautiful Eucharist, celebrating Trinity Sunday. Anthony preached a very short but powerfully anointed message that proclaimed the mystery of the Holy Trinity as something that cannot be explained intellectually but can only be comprehended by love, through intimacy with the Persons of the Trinity. The students participated by reading the lessons and acting as acolytes. During the service I presented each student with their certificate of completion and gave them the book Simply Anglican and an icon of Jesus, who represents God's Divine Pedagogy. The word “pedagogy” means “way of teaching” or art of teaching.” We learn about God by looking at the Son and entering into relationship with him.
This year’s retreat represents a turning point for ACTS. We experienced a sweet gentle, visitation of the Holy Spirit that expressed itself in profound love and unity. Spontaneous collaboration and visioning occurred all throughout the weekend as students (who didn’t previously know each other well) met together to plan next steps for catechesis in their local congregations as well as in the diocese. The catechists in our diocese own the vision of “effectively partnering with ordained clergy in order to bring God's people into Christian maturity and equip them for fruitful ministry in extending God's Kingdom throughout the world.”
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