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“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:30-31)

By Rev. Lisa Wang

Can you remember who first taught you the story of Jesus?

Can you remember the faith community in which you first came to know Jesus?

Can you name the person(s) who is most responsible for your being a Christian today?

Can you name someone who helps you to grow in your faith and understanding even now?

The answer to any of these questions will indicate something simple yet very important: that, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian faith is handed on from one person to another, and is nourished in community.

Chances are, the people in your life brought to mind by the above questions may not even be clergy. They may have been parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, or Sunday school teachers. This too indicates something simple yet important: that receiving and handing on the faith is something that all Christians are called to do.

“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?

“Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? “I will, with God’s help.”

It is the shared vocation of all baptized Christians to hand on the faith that we have received, but how we do so will look different for each of us. St Paul explained to the Corinthians:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.” (1 Cor 12:4-5)

Each of us is gifted differently by the Holy Spirit to do the work of God in the Church and in the world. Among the many roles that St Paul mentions — “apostles”, “prophets”, “healers”, “helpers”, “administrators” — he also mentions “teachers” (1 Cor 12:28). (The ancient Church called these teachers “catechists”.)

Now, we all know those amazing people in our lives who are teachers. We know their gifts and their passion for helping people to learn. Maybe you are one of them! Or maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a teacher. And yet…  

Teaching and learning are not just about mastering a body of knowledge, or a set of skills. The Church’s teachers do three very important things:

  • They keep the faith, the memory of God’s story, alive. 
  • They share that story with others, introducing us to the person of Jesus.
  • They accompany us in our journey of faith.

In the ministry of teaching, it’s not just knowledge that is crucial, but knowing how to be with people as they grow, learn, discover, struggle, and question. Who in your life has done this for you?

Is there someone in your congregation or community who does this for others — maybe without even knowing it? What are some of the ways you have handed on the faith to others in your life? Do you feel you are being called to do more?

Rev. Dr. Lisa Wang is the Developer for Catechumenal Ministries for the Diocese of Huron. 

(Illustration: Karoly Ferenczy, Sermon on the Mount - detail)