Facets & Faces of Forma
Forma is composed of a diversity of leaders in The Episcopal Church. From ordained to lay and paid to volunteer, they minister with children, youth, young adults, adults, and seniors at all levels of the Church.
Each month in our newsletter we focus on two Forma members to highlight, showing the breadth, depth, and passion that Forma folks have for Christian formation at the local, diocesan, and church-wide level.
This month we introduce April Caballero and Josh Hosler!
Meet April Caballero, a young-ish adult with a passion for curating relevant and meaningful experiences of Christ through liturgy and creative expression. She has been a “proud” member of Forma for a little over two years now. It has been a primary source of inspiration to her, noting that “Forma is a network of absolutely dedicated Christian practitioners, and I have come away from each conference, each Council meeting, and each interaction with a renewed sense of purpose for the work of the Church and Christian formation.” For those new to Christian formation (in any capacity), April advises that you “sleep on any decision” before committing to a new endeavor. “There is so much exciting work to be done in Christian formation, and it is tempting to offer to do it all. This can lead to over-worked and over-burdened leaders; it can take the joy out of something we thought would be exciting. By taking a pause before committing, we allow our excitement some space to mingle with the rest of our work and our lives and we can make commitments that we are truly enthusiastic about.”
Currently April is the Executive Assistant for the Office of the Bishop at the Diocese of Olympia, serving the Episcopal Church in Western Washington state. Prior to her work at the diocese, April served as the Ministry Coordinator for Church of the Apostles (COTA), a Lutheran-Episcopal Mission Station in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, while taking on freelance design and marketing projects as well as event planning. It was here that she found the Episcopal Church; a space for her to grow as a lay leader that embraced her passion for creative liturgy.
April has the habit of sitting on her west-facing deck for one hour each evening after the workday has ended. Sometimes she reads (right now it is Terry Tempest Williams who weaves faith, family, and life/death with the natural rhythms of creation), sometimes she has a Zoom happy hour with a friend, and sometimes she just sits and watches the sun go down through the trees. While this started during the stay-at-home order, it is a practice she intends on keeping.
April holds a BA in communications and religion from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She is passionate about liturgy, cetaceans, and backpacking. While loving her life in the Pacific Northwest since 2008, April will always be a Texan at heart (as you can tell). She offers her favorite piece of scripture: Simon Peter’s plea to Jesus: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ (John 6:68) along with this “lovely little song” from Poor Clare.
Meet Josh Hosler, who attended his first Forma conference in 2014 and was able to return to another a couple years later. However, those two conferences were enough to help him establish face-to-face connections with many great new friends to whom he still turns for help through the Forma Facebook group. With two ordained parents, he never thought he would be a priest. His first memory of church was acting up in the worship space at a very young age with a brother, while his mother dragged her two screaming sons out! As a young adult he began helping with diocesan youth ministry as often as he could. It was through the combination of these opportunities and a sudden job loss that the Holy Spirit began tugging him toward seminary, where he earned his Masters of Divinity at Virginia Theological Seminary.
He was born in the east (Scranton, PA) and now lives in the northwest (Seattle) where he is the rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Federal Way, Washington. He especially loves preaching, teaching, and encouraging the development of community. He shares, “When those things can include both spending time with young people and composing music, that is even more enjoyable.” This makes perfect sense because he has an undergraduate degree in music theory/composition from Olivet College in Michigan. For fun Josh maintains a series of Spotify playlists and a portal at Pop Music Anthology.
At the moment, Josh’s favorite piece of scripture is Luke 24:13-35, the road to Emmaus. During quarantine, Cleopas’s four words “But we had hoped” carry so much resonance for him. And Josh prays “that those may always lead to a situation in which our hearts are ‘burning within us.’”
During quarantine, he couldn’t be happier to be stuck with two specific people, his wife Christy and teenage daughter Sarah. They just finished watching Steven Universe and “can’t recommend this series enough, to absolutely everybody, not only for its explicit Christian connections, but also in the ways it challenges our assumptions and calls us to love in unexpected ways.”
Meet Wallace Benton, who grew up at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church outside of Atlanta, Georgia as a precocious, loud, and mischievous child. When he graduated high school, he continued his education at Georgia Institute of Technology (the one true college in the state of Georgia) and studied International Affairs with the expectation that international law was in his future. After graduating and a stint working for a law firm, Wallace found himself volunteering and then, employed, as the Youth Minister at St. Edward’s Episcopal Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Currently, Wallace serves as the Youth Director at St. David’s in Roswell.
You may recognize Wallace as a member of Forma’s Council of Advice. He is also highly involved with EYCDIOATL (Episcopal Youth Community of the Diocese of Atlanta). Listen to him as one of the hosts on their podcast about youth ministry.
Wallace felt a call to serve others while serving as a high school team member at the middle school retreat weekend, New Beginnings. It was one of the few opportunities where he got to choose to serve, instead of being told to serve others or the Church. New Beginnings served to be a jumping off place for his relationship with God and the Church, and it also kept him connected to the church during his college years.
Wallace offers one piece of advice for new Christian formation people: “Connect as much as possible. I would not have had success in youth ministry without remembering the people who supported, challenged, and taught me along the way. Even if there aren’t people in your area or diocese you can talk to about your ministry, reach out to other local formation people from other denominations for advice about what works and what doesn’t. Forma has been a phenomenal outlet for me to learn and observe formation people from around the country who have been doing ministry longer than I have been alive.”
Wallace Benton enjoys spending time with his wife and rival youth minister, Sally; playing hide-and-go-seek with his dog, Bishop; hiking; and reading. He believes that relationships are the most important aspect of his ministry with youth and their families and puts diocesan ministry as a cornerstone of his own ministry.
Meet Pattie Ames, the Christian Formation Missioner for the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia who resides in Roanoke with her dog Captain. Perhaps you already know Pattie from a Forma Conference or thru her posts in the Forma Facebook Group as she has been a Forma member for about eight years. She got involved with Christian formation “by the grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and some faith filled people who saw I had a ministry with all God’s people. My life in the church began at an early age and having people walk with me and value me at church was an important part of my formation and how I walk with children now. My relationship with God is deep rooted in trying to live out my Baptismal Covenant. I found the best way to serve God and others, given my gifts, was working as a lay person in the church, especially working with children. It was also by the witness of others in my life - clergy and lay - and through my prayers of discernment. I was blessed to spend time with Verna Dozier who helped me see the great importance of lay ministry and told me, ‘Girl, God is calling to work with children in the church and beyond, go do it.’”
As the Christian Formation Missioner for SWVA she is the resource and support person for children’s ministry, was the interim Youth Missioner, works with campus ministries and the diocesan young adult community, oversees all our Safeguarding programs and training, supports and resource parishes in lifelong formation. and that infamous “other duties as assigned.” She loves the challenges and diversity of the work serving 54 parishes that range in size. I enjoy getting to know people, listening to them, and supporting them in their various ministries. Only one year in this particular position, she has enjoyed working with the youth, getting to know various colleges and university students and their campus ministers, and continues to enjoy the travel in this beautiful part of Virginia.
Pattie shares that Forma has given her “so much!” She finds a wonderful and wide circle of colleagues and friends, support for her ministry, and an opportunity to learn and grow at conferences and through other connections. Advice she gives to folks new to the ministry of Christian formation is to, “Listen, love the people you serve, be comfortable telling your story, and remember you too are on the journey, so keep learning and growing. Get a group of friends you stay in touch with to support each other in your ministries. If you fail it is okay and learn from that experience. Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep, not to count them (unless one is missing);’ laugh and enjoy the journey.”
In her spare” time, Pattie enjoys walking with Captain, hiking, going to baseball games, going out to eat with friends, and has been known to binge watch a series on Netflix. About that baseball connection – it is more than just going to games. She taught a class on the Theology of Baseball that merged her two favorite things: faith and baseball. She had the opportunity to talk with several former major league players and Doris Kearns Goodwin about religion, faith, and baseball and how the two might intersect. The best experience she had was listening to stories from men who played in the Negro Leagues and then played in the majors and minors. Their stories about how their faith played a huge role in their life before and after integration were amazing, a true privilege for her to sit with these men of faith.
Her favorite piece of scripture is the call of Samuel. She believes God calls each of us, including children. After working with children for 29 years, she truly believes they are some of the best theologians she knows and believes God calls them to teach others. They also need a guide, someone to walk with them, like Eli, so they can learn how to listen and answer God’s call. Pattie has answered that call for sure!