Manhattan is a sea of green – lots of people. I am only four blocks from the beginning of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but alas I will not be able to see it.
I’ve been thinking for a while now that we need to institute a new catechumenate process within the Church that moves us away from “punch your card” kind of emphasis on “salvation,” and moves us to a more ancient pre-Constantine notion of journey and process leading up to a mature and informed decision to join the Church, to become a Christian, to devote oneâ€™s life to Christ.
I came across this blog entry from Tim Neufeld, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, via Kendall Harmon’s website, Titusonenine.
Here is the blog entry:
This Side of 313
“Something remarkable happened in A.D. 313: Our understanding of conversion was radically shifted. When Constantine granted most-favored status to Christianity, social frameworks and religious paradigms shifted almost overnight. Those who were once persecuted, the Christians, were given status in the new world, and those who once held positions of power, the pagans, became the outsiders. Everything that was once at the center was now at the margins of society, and all that was on the edges was now given status. Christendom was born.
“In a pre-Constantinian world conversion was a long, extended process. It typically took three or four years to gain membership in a church. Early church fathers developed a four-phase catechism that moved the initiate on a journey of discipleship. While there were elements unique to the different geographic areas of the second and third century church, a general pattern did emerge. At the beginning of the journey a young candidate would be mentored by an older believer, often two or three times a week for up to two years. Not until the disciple had proved faithfulness through mentoring would he or she be allowed to join the local house church. Even when admitted to a congregation the new attender was dismissed before the Eucharist (communion); only baptized members could participate in this most sacred of rituals. The next phase of the catechetical experience was a series of classes and exorcisms that led to the culminating act of baptism on the night before Easter. Finally, the believer was allowed to participate in his or her first communion on Easter Sunday, enjoying the full membership of the body of Christ.