The pandemic carved a big, empty hole in me. Hosting a journalist for lunch, having a glass of wine with friends, visiting PR clients in North and South Carolina….activity defined my days. I’m a connector, a story teller, the person who knows about the hidden gems, the good places to eat, the little surprises.
If I were a character in the Bible, I’d likely feel a kinship with the apostle Paul who preached love in action. Staying at home for several weeks? NOT in my playbook.
That’s not what you’d expect from a catechist at our church, right? Our atriums exude calm and peace—a stark contrast to my gadfly, extroverted personality. Twenty years ago when I became a catechist, I realized I needed the atrium’s peace as much as it needed me.
I was trained by Anna Hurdle at All Saints Episcopal Church in Birmingham and then here. My journey began when our Christian formation leader at All Saints proposed we train and develop Catechesis of the Good Shepherd there. Later, sitting on the floor with her, she explained that one didn’t move and talk at the same time in the atrium; every movement was intentional. Demonstrating the “pouring” work, she traced her finger around the edge of glass, looked up solemnly, made eye contact with me….and then she emptied the water into the glass. The intentional grace of that movement resonated deeply with me.
Montessori practices layer the development of motor skills needed for the Eucharist—and life—into Level 1 lessons taught to three- to six-year-olds. Children meet the Good Shepherd, and more. Everything about the environment invites the child to “fall in love with God.”
That someone would even fathom such a powerful idea!
In Level 2 with six- to nine-year-olds, I found my teaching home. As this age group begins to form moral concepts, we dig into the gestures of the Eucharist, Jesus’ parables, and we continue reflecting on the Good Shepherd. Level 3 begins Old Testament study and dives even deeper into the prayers we hear every Sunday.
Not seeing our children—not moving through this challenging time with them—has been an agonizing loss for me. I miss seeing their faces and working alongside them.
I remember when Ollie Rencher, our former rector, asked us after the Charleston church massacres what we might do to combat racism. We wrote our answers down on a square piece of colored paper and stuck it on a big white board. My answer was the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Creating a space where God’s children develop their own understanding of a loving God who loves everyone…I still can’t think of a more powerful calling.
And so, as I examine this new gap in my life and think about my response to it, the atrium once again whispers an answer: The Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name, and He leads them out. (John 10:3)
The Good Shepherd is on the move in this time of solitude and social distancing, demonstrations and public protest.
Thanks be to God!
Susan Dosier, Catechist