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So, what is formation? In this fourth in this series, I will tease out some strands.
First a few things to clear the ground. Formation is not the sole responsibility for the ordained. They may have a formal obligation to see to the formation of those over whose care they have some reponsibility. However, the reponsibility is everyone's and we are all responsible for each others' formation.
Formation is something everyone experiences. Some may be gifted and some not even know what the word means but in principle it is accessible to all. The Methodist publication, Time to Talk of God, a few years ago, made this point. Anyone can talk about God.
Formation is a mutual activity. It is something people can share in. It is not about someone who knows, pouring insights into the minds of others. It is mutual learning. Christian traditions are not programmes of belief to be systematically worked through; they are guides, resources, help, something to draw upon.
Consequently, sharing between Christians of different traditions makes a valuable contribution to mutual formation because it enables sharing of insights from different parts of the tradition. This is sometimes called receptive ecumenism.
Furthermore, without mutual sharing, there is a danger that a tradition will go out on a limb. If we are to engage with others from outside the faith, we must learn from each other something of what our faith is.