What is Formation?

Formation is the process of our growing up and into the image of Christ. Sometimes called “discipleship,” formation is what we do—and what God does—to conform our lives, inwardly and outwardly, to the life of Jesus. It involves a change in character. It includes the whole person--the renewing of our minds, the restoring of our affections, the maturing of our faith, the healing of our souls, and the adoption of a new way of living, thinking, feeling, giving and receiving.

But it begins with our receiving. It begins with grace. Formation is first of all—and last of all—something that God does for us, and in us, through the Holy Spirit. The new life we are given in Christ comes to us as a gift, which normally begins at Baptism. And that new life bears “good fruit,” as the New Testament says—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

What brings these good things to life in us? In Anglican theology, it is a cooperative effort, which begins at God’s initiative and continues with our cooperation. Joining ourselves to a worshipping community and participating in the life of that community is one part of our formation. Reading, hearing and studying the scriptures is another vital element. The sacraments are what our Prayer Book calls “sure and certain means of grace.” Service to others is a sure and certain means of growing in faith, hope and love.

Finally, education is an important element of Christian Formation. Reading the Bible together, as well as studying classical and contemporary sources of theology and spirituality, shapes the way we think about God, ourselves and each other.


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