The older generations are learning and loving to engage with a Church in the digital age, while the children and young families are exhausted by the dramatic increase in screen time.”
The Screen Fatigue Challenge
By the time the children and youth of our parish had made it two months into quarantine, it was clear that everybody needed a break from remote faith formation. We were convinced that we could find a new and better way to support our families and children in their faith formation in the upcoming months.
As in any season of ministry, the offering had to match the immediate needs of the community, but it also had to be in step with the mission of the Church. Whatever we created, it needed to be something our church community would be proud of on the other side of the pandemic.
The Birth of “Table Talk”
The concept of “Table Talk” is not groundbreaking or particularly innovative, but it certainly reflects the type of faith formation that many churches long for. Our basic resources for “Table Talk” take seriously the responsibility that parents have in the faith formation of their children. We know that parents, not children’s ministers, youth pastors, nor clergy, are the first and best teachers of faith. Sometimes parents simply need a gentle nudge to be reminded of their unique call.
We had begun to hear from our parish families that they had newfound hours for intentional time together. Several of our families shared how thankful they were to finally have the time to sit down at their dinner table and be present to one another for a meal. This seemed resonate across generations. We had found our new medium for faith formation, and “Table Talk” was born.
What is “Table Talk”?
Each month we create a single-page document of reflections for families to use throughout the week at the time and place they feel most comfortable. Each page offers a Gospel reading from the nearest Sunday of the month, preceded by a brief (3-4 sentences) overview that puts the reading into context. The Gospel is then followed by a few age-appropriate, open-ended questions for families to reflect upon together. There are no wrong answers, only invitations for theological wondering together. We hope parents feel confident enough to be teachers, due to our provision of some biblical reflection, and curious enough to question and learn alongside their children.
Pandemic life, surprisingly much like “normal” life, has been filled with little graces. It is abundantly clear that many of our parishioners will arrive on the other end of this pandemic with some degree of digital literacy. The ways in which the Church can meet them will be forever widened. This is a grace. If we are fortunate, some of our families and their children will feel more comfortable creating intentional time for one another, and perhaps even feel safe enough to wonder aloud about God in their own homes. This, too, is a grace, and not a small one.
The full September version of Table Talk from Episcopal Church of The Redeemer can be found here. Please give credit to “Church of The Redeemer, Bryn Mawr, PA” if used.
The Rev. Michael Palmisano is the Associate Rector for Education and Faith Formation at Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, PA. Prior to seminary Michael served as a therapist in the Greater Philadelphia area where he grew up. He is an avid runner and an amateur bread baker. Check out Michael’s new blog, The Running Reverend.