This is the third piece in a series introducing the Regional Catalyzers for Faith Formation Ministries. We first introduced you to Lesli van Milligen who works in Ontario. Next, we introduced you to Liz Tolkamp who works in British Colombia. This week we head south of the border to introduce you to Jill Friend, who serves as a Regional Catalyzer in Iowa. Look for more interviews with Regional Catalyzers for the CRC's office of Faith Formation Ministries in the weeks ahead!
Jill, you teach orchestra, choir and music at Sioux Center Christian School. How does your training and experience as a teacher impact how you work with congregational leaders as a Regional Catalyzer?
As a teacher, I always first need to know where my students are at in their learning and what I can do to help them grow and develop. As a Regional Catalyzer, I see myself coming alongside congregations in a similar way. It is important for me to discover where a congregation has been—their struggles, their joys, and their hopes for the future. I also see my students holistically and seek to help my students not only grow intellectually, but also spiritually, emotionally and in community with each other. In the same way, I believe faith formation and discipleship must be seen holistically and must be infused throughout all the ministries of a congregation.
Describe for us a key person (or people) who played an important role in your faith formation.
My parents, as well as my pastor at the Lutheran Brethren Church I attended growing up, surrounded me with unconditional love and a deep sense of God’s grace in my life. I never felt a need to live or at a certain way in order to be accepted and surrounded by the love of Christ. Resting in God’s grace has been such a source of freedom and peace in my life, and I look back at what a precious gift I was given through their example.
You have a lot of experience designing, planning, and leading worship. Based on your experience, how does worship form the faith of God's people?
Worship is the regular, communal retelling of God’s work of salvation in our lives. Together as a community, we experience confession, praise, supplication and God’s gracious blessing on our lives. In this age of the “big me”, worship is a counter-cultural message to the world around us that we are a forgiven people, set free to be a blessing to the world around us.
During your time serving on the denomination's Faith Formation Committee (2007-2012), you had the opportunity to listen to a number of congregational leaders talk about their hopes and concerns for the Church. What did you hear in those conversations that you still carry with you into your work today?
So many congregations have a yearning and a hunger to help their members of all ages grow in the faith. They struggle with what it means to be a church and a denomination in the 21st century when the way we communicate, work and interact is so different than years ago. I felt the anxiety of many congregations whose hearts were in the right place, yet still had a nagging sense that they were not meeting the needs of many in their congregation. I was also deeply moved by how many of the congregations were working to shape their ministries around the needs of their communities. CRC congregations have a deep desire to put their words into action through service, and it was inspiring to see all the different ways these congregations were reaching out to their communities.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it in your new role as a Regional Catalyzer?
I would love to have supersonic speed like “the Flash”. So many churches in the Midwest are miles apart. I would love to be able to visit as many as possible, so lightning quick speed would certainly help with the travel time!