One paragraph in The Book of Common Prayersums up the ministry of Helen Barron, a lay powerhouse who coordinated the development of two important curricula, supported Christian formation in the Episcopal Church, and created her own resource printing company. The paragraph opens the section on Holy Baptism:
Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble. (The Book of Common Prayer,298)
She notes that those words are “worth the price of the whole book.” Her life illustrates the words of the Baptismal Covenant (304-305), which confer on all the baptized the role and responsibility to “Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood (308).”
About the same time as the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book, another decision by the Episcopal Church, following in the steps of the Roman Catholic Church, changed Barron’s life. The Church adopted a three-year lectionary, which offered four readings for each Sunday that usually amplified the gospel message. Both the emphasis on baptism and the new lectionary had implications for Christian formation for all ages.
The Diocese of Colorado, where Barron lived, took up the challenge to reflect these new directions in parish life in three ways:
1. Develop lesson plans at six levels from preschool through adult,
2. Provide an intergeneration experiences for everyone before moving into worship, and
3. Celebrate Eucharist with all ages together.
This format guided the development of Living the Good News (LTGN), a new lectionary-based curriculum for all ages. Barron took over as project coordinator after about one-half of the three-year cycle had been completed.
“To this day,” said Barron, “whenever groups of us who were doing this work are together, we concur that the experience was our own version of Camelot. Like Camelot, it could not last. But the joy of building something together . . . was creative and energizing.”
Barron later applied her knowledge and wisdom learned at LTGN to oversee an update of Lesson Plans that Work, a free, downloadable lectionary curriculum published by the Episcopal Church for all age groups. It is used by churches throughout the country, especially smaller congregations.
After her work on LTGN and while she traveled throughout the United States and Canada giving workshops about the curriculum, she created Candle Press, which gave her a place to develop and produce more of her ideas. Currently, she is using it to provide resources for families.
Barron firmly believes there is a time and season for everything. The direction she would like to see the Church move toward is faith formation in the home, which for her is the best place to explore the meaning of Christian formation in the 21stCentury. “Some good things are going to happen,” she said. “Jesus will make it work even if we can’t.”
This article first appeared in Episcopal Teacher: Winter 2019 Special Issue, page 17