Our primary program for children’s spiritual formation is called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This Montessori-based curriculum offers engagement with biblical narratives and self-directed activities. Children age three and older are encouraged to attend church with their parents, have a snack at coffee fellowship, then head upstairs for that day’s work. Sessions will end by noon.
Atria (the plural form of atrium) is an ancient word for a gathering place. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd uses this word instead of classroom or Sunday school room. It is similar to our use of catechesis instead of Sunday school. We get away from educational language as we are not doing Christian education but Christian formation.
Yes, there really is a difference. Education implies a system in which subjects are presented to be repeated back, to be learned so that questions may be answered in a correct way. Christian formation enables participants to ponder a question in their own time and arrive at answers on their own. It is a way of the heart. It requires leaders who have been formed themselves and an environment that models peace and quiet.
The environment is prepared and ready for the children. The catechist is prepared and ready for the children. The children participate eagerly. It is also a space that is easy for a new child to enter and where visitors are welcome. Children are encouraged to come into the atrium at age three. They are hardwired for God, they are part of our Sunday meal with Jesus, and their questions rise to the surface.