This posting on the CRC Network prompted a memory…
I had long longed to figure out ways of teaching the teachings of the church in ways other than I received them. So, when I got my first Catechism class as a newly minted pastor, I set to it.
First session, with the challenge of having a class of 9 young guys, seven of whom were cousins and one of the other two being one of my sons, I said this. “Your parents are going to wonder if I’m an effective catechism teacher, and will likely ask you when you get home what you learned in catechism. If you are like me at your age, you won’t remember. Here’s the deal I want to make with you. You memorize a sequence of three words that will answer your parent’s question, and once you all know it we can spend the rest of the time talking about whatever you want.” The seemingly antiparental deal was made, they learned to say “Sin, Salvation, Service” or “Misery Deliverance and Gratitude” and the rest of the hour we had some discussion about movies they liked and why, with me, unrecognized by them, bringing in theological and spiritual themes by the questions I asked.
The next week, before they settled, in, I announced “Road Trip! Get in the van.” We went to a graveyard where a middle aged member they liked and respected had been freshly buried before his time because he was run down by a drowsy driver. I had cleared this action with the widow. I stopped the van near Dick Van Rooyen’s grave. It was dusk, and the air was cooling rapidly. Some mist was forming. One of the guys said “you’re freaking me out Pastor Pete.” This made me glad, because it increased the likelihood of creating a long-teaching memory. I asked them all to get out of the van and find a gravestone to sit on, then to just be quiet and wait. I sat on one too. When I could not stand the ache of the cold seeping into me from the stone, I said, “I am pretty sure that none of you think much about being under one of these stones one day. You believe you are invincible, and besides it’s not a comfortable thing to think about. In fact, sitting here is not comfortable on a number of levels isn’t it? Well, the Heidelberg Catechism’s first Q & A has given many people you have known HUGE comfort when they came to the point that they were going to die.” And, using a flashlight, I read it to them. Then I said, “back in the van, lets go back to where it is warm and talk about what you want to talk about.”
I did not have much opportunity or when I did did not have other resources to develop the entire HC into a series of similar adventures. But I would love to see a curriculum that was focused on creating an experiential and tactile learning of its content and meaning.