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Catechism as Platform: Teaching Catechism in a Digital Age

livingwordonlyToday I begin co-teaching, along with Martin Lohrmann, a new online class at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia called Catechism as Platform: Teaching the Catechism in a Digital Age.

Here's the course description:

Luther's catechisms were written to invite parents, youth, teachers and pastors into a way of life built upon the good news of Christ crucified and risen for us. In 21st century terms, his catechisms were more like a "platform" than a "page." This course will study Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, with an eye on the many ways they continue to inform faith, worship, prayer and daily life. At the same time there will be a focus on developing fluency in today's digital technology, learning to communicate Luther's "platform of faith" through various social media resources. The course assumes that the catechisms are assets for public theology, sharing the faith both inside and outside our churches.

Needless to say I'm excited about the class, mainly because I think we are charting some pretty new territory when it comes to teaching the catechism in a world shaped by digital social media.

Social media have dramatically changed how we learn, how we communicate, and how we are formed in our faith. What are the implications, then, for teaching the Catechism—Martin Luther's basic explanation of faith?

I bring a host of ideas and questions into the class, which I'm interested in exploring, such as:

If the "media is the message" as Marshall McLuhan famously said, what, outside of its content, does the actual form of the Catechism say to us?

The Catechism was first printed on broadsheets and then in booklets for use in homes. They included woodcut images of Bible readings that related to Catechism teachings. The original basis for Luther's Large Catechism was a series of sermons Luther preached on the Catechism. There are many types of media at work here. Which media? Which message?

It seems to me that the Catechism, though a product of the printing press (a form of broadcast media), could be said to be a form of social media itself, one intended to be read and discussed in small social groups (families). We'll be talking about the difference between broadcast and social media and their associated approaches with the help of Elizabeth Drescher's book, Tweet If You <3 Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation

What is the locus of spiritual formation? Where does (or might) catechesis happen?

Part of Luther's overall theological project was to move the "holy calling" out of the monastery and into the home and daily living. He wrote the Small Catechism especially for parents to talk about with children in the home. And yet, we have, for the most part, relegated teaching Catechism to Confirmation class in the church.

What are the ways we can do catechesis (faith formation) beyond Confirmation class?

What are the opportunities and limitations of doing catechesis in digital social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram?

As I co-teach this class, I will also be co-teaching our Confirmation class at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. One thing we are going to try this fall is Instagraming the Ten Commandments. I'm going to ask our students to make an Instagram picture each week, representing the commandment we talked about at Confirmation class, creating our own modern versions of the old catechism woodcuts. We'll hashtag them and discuss them as Confirmation class proceeds.

The hashtag for Catechism as Platform is #catform13. Feel free to check us out on Twitter and follow along. 

What is your experience of teaching Catechism or forming faith in the digital age? I'd love to hear your questions, ideas, experiences, and resources.

photo credit: DeeAshley

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