One of the great gifts of the Lutheran Reformation, was the Small Catechism, which Martin Luther wrote in in 1529 to help everyday Christians to make sense of God’s promises, and God’s presence in their day-to-day lives. For generations Lutherans have studied Luther’s Small Catechism, memorized all or parts of it, and had their faith-lives shaped by it.
One thing that is often missed by modern Lutherans (and other Christians for that matter) is that back in the day there were dozens of catechisms out there. Luther’s wasn’t the only one. Most towns or regions in Germany had catechisms of their own, tailored to the particular needs of their communities, congregations, and contexts.
In the spirit of the Reformation, which marks its 500th anniversary this October, we will be unveiling a new catechism written for our congregation, our neighborhood and our times. Our goal is not to replicate Luther’s Small Catechism, nor, certainly, to replace it. The goal, instead, is to take inspiration from Luther and to produce something new and, we pray, uniquely suited to invite any and all who sift through its pages to know God and the life of faith better.
Luther’s catechism – and most catechisms, frankly – are primarily meant to deliver information, information which is to be received, accepted, believed. The Fulton Catechism will be different. To be sure, there will be faith claims in it (one article of our faith, for example, is the promise that in Christ’s life and death we are taught that our God “so loves us,” that God, through Christ, teaches us how to love one another). But this catechism is being designed to be responsive and interactive. “What will that be like?” you might be wondering. Here are some ideas:
- We will begin with questions meant to invite not just acceptance of faith-truths, but to be a sort of conversation with the “reader.”
- There will be coloring pages, and spaces to write, question, doodle, journal and engage in faithful reflection.
- Space will be given not only to the doctrines or promises that are the beginning of Christian faith, but the ways in which these promises can shape a person’s life of faith-in-action.
- This catechism will be invitational, conversational and, we hope, faith- and life-giving.
We are calling our catechism the Fulton Catechism because we want it to be understood as for any and all who might work through it – not just for members of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd or for folks who walk through our door, but for everyone in the neighborhood we share – and, for that matter, for anyone, anywhere, who might take it up.