St. Matthew's Episcopal Church 919 Tennis Avenue | Maple Glen, Pennsylvania 19002 | 215-646-4092

Learning About Our Faith

Throughout the year, St. Matthew’s offers many diverse opportunities to grow our faith as Christians. Some of the opportunities are described below in order of age range beginning with our youngest children. For more specific information about the topics being discussed, please contact the church office.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

St. Matthew’s offers four levels of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as our primary means of religious formation for our children from 16 months to age 12. Saint Matthew’s has embraced the philosophy of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and has successfully implemented this work with children for more than twenty five years. The goal of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to nurture the child’s relationship with God. The Catechesis accomplishes this through the use of manipulative materials, prayer, songs, listening to the Bible with the children, and preparing children for full participation in liturgy.

At Saint Matthew’s, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is offered each week on Sunday morning, starting in early September and concluding by the middle of June. The children gather from 9:00 – 10:15 a.m. in four separate atria (classrooms). All four atria have been fully stocked and are located in the modular unit directly across from the Parish Hall.

Materials, closely linked to biblical and liturgical sources, are attractively displayed for children to explore as a way to deepen their religious experiences.

Because it is attuned to the developmental and spiritual needs of children, the Catechesis experience is both religious education and spiritual formation. Our focus is on helping each child strengthen his or her personal prayer life, participation in corporate worship, and growing knowledge of the Bible and of God’s work throughout history. This holistic approach to catechesis is enriching both our children and the volunteers who serve them, fostering a culture of continual spiritual growth.

What is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?

The Catechesis (CGS) is an approach to the religious education and spiritual development of children that respects the pre-existent relationship between God and the child, and nurtures its continual maturation. By introducing the children first to the parable of the Good Shepherd, they come to understand that God is a Person Who provides safety, sustenance, and serenity to each and every one of His beloved sheep. This foundation is critical to their development as freely moral people.

The roots of CGS lie in the research and experience of Dr. Maria Montessori and those who have continued her work.  Two of the most distinctive elements of her work are hallmarks of the CGS: a) a specifically prepared educational environment that draws out a personal response in the child and b) an exacting skill of observation employed by the adult. By applying her method to religious education, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi opened a door to understanding the spiritual nature of the child, enabling adults to nurture the child’s spiritual formation and present information most effectively.

What is an Atrium?

Created to meet the spiritual and educational needs of youngsters, the atrium is a place set apart for the children who receive a series of presentations (or lessons) there. The environment and the presentations are carefully designed to lead the child to contemplate and experience an aspect of God. Built on the belief that God is indeed already in conversation with the soul of the child, the atrium and its materials are provided to further the child’s relationship with God in a way that respects the uniqueness of each one and his or her growing awareness of that relationship.

In an atrium the child can ponder a biblical passage or a prayer from the liturgy by taking the material for that text and working with it.  These prepared environments contain materials such as models of an altar, articles of the Eucharist, a baptismal font, and miniature vestments in the liturgical colors. The rooms also contain materials related to scripture stories, including Old Testament prophets, the parables, and the life of Christ. Further attention is given to the geography of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. All levels include presentations on the sacraments, the Bible, geography, infancy and passion narratives, prophecies and parables with the presentations increasing in detail and sophistication as the child matures.

The atrium helps the relationship between God and the child to flourish. The atrium can be compared to a retreat house that facilitates recollection and silence. It is a place for religious life, community and worship.  The atrium is a place of work that becomes a conversation with God. The atrium is a place for preparation for involvement in the larger worshiping community.

The atrium space is structured with child-sized shelves and tables on which rest beautiful, generally hand-crafted materials used first by the catechist in demonstration, then by the children as they freely choose which aspect of God they wish to pursue and experience further. Everything placed in the atrium is for the child’s use, according to his or her developmental needs. This enables the children to develop their physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities in a safe environment under the direction of trained catechists and their assistants. Those who instruct also listen and observe as the children come into contact with God at their own paces and rhythms, guided by the liturgical cycle of the year.

Here is a short introductory video about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the program St. Matthew’s uses for Sunday Morning Christian Education.

Vacation Bible School

In 2021, our Vacation Bible School, Rocky Railway, helped children explore how Jesus can pull us through life’s ups and downs.  This year, VBS week was July 6-9, from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon.  Traditionally, VBS takes place the second week of July.

The week is filled with songs, crafts, Bible lessons, delicious snacks, and fun outdoor games!  Kids  make new, lasting friendships and deepen their relationship with God.

Groups are divided up according to their rising grade level, from Pre-K through 5th grade.  Older teenagers are needed to help lead the groups and activities.

Volunteers – both adult and teenagers – are needed to make the week possible.  Please consider volunteering as a group leader, classroom helper, snack helper, photographer, decorating/set up volunteer, or substitute volunteer.  We can’t have VBS without volunteers!  It’s a fun week for volunteers as well as children, and the time commitment is only 3 hours a day for just one week out of the summer, or even just one morning!  For more information on how you can help, contact our VBS Coordinator, Laura Zakrzewski, or contact the Parish Office.

Space is limited, so register early.  The program is open to non-parishioners as well, so bring your friends!

Middle School & High School Sunday School

Saint Matthew’s Youth Ministries are open to all girls and boys, young women and men, from the time they are ‘rising 6th graders’ through their graduation from High School. We also welcome interested adults, whether or not they are parents, to join our Youth Ministry Team!

There are two main aspects to the way Youth are being formed for Christian discipleship: Sunday Morning Worship and ‘Sunday School’ classes and Evening, Youth Group activities. All youth programs are led by committed, and faithful adult leaders—in consultation with parish clergy.

St. Matthew’s Youth where we worship, pray, grow and serve together in Christ!

Sunday Mornings

All Youth are encouraged to attend one of the Services of Holy Eucharist offered every Sunday morning: at 7:45, 9:00, or 10:30 a.m. During the school year, Sunday School classes are presented during the 9:00 a.m. Worship hour.

All classes are ‘team taught’, i.e., by one or more adult leaders who have undergone state background checks as well as safe church training, and the curriculum is varied and relevant to their lives as Jesus’ disciples—ranging from the Sacraments and the Gospels, to living the Christian life in light of these principles.

Newcomers are always welcome, to join in at any point! And all youth are encouraged to ‘bring a friend.’ It’s Not Just For Us!

Adult Education

The spiritual journey of faith is a lifelong process that has barely begun at adulthood. At Saint Matthew’s we seek to encourage and equip our members to live with a vibrant faith in a challenging world. See here for details.