Becoming a Community of Discernment
Just this week, Bishop Michael Curry, who will soon be the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, made some keen observations about evangelism and the future of the church. As reported in the Charlotte Observer, he said, “We’ve got to get to the day when the average Episcopalian is in touch with [his or her] own faith story and faith journey and is able to share that appropriately and authentically.” He continued, “That may be the game-changer. … We’re good about doing. We’re nervous about talking.
Well the PB elect will be happy to know that we are well on our way to doing just what he is proposing here at Redeemer. Already folks have explored their spiritual journeys in one-off Adult formation sessions or in Education for Ministry (EFM) classes. Now, there will be another, fuller, opportunity to do so.
For quite a while, I have had this crazy idea that all churches should be communities of discernment. To that end I have wanted to begin a series in which a group of folks might choose to journey together for a specific period of time reflecting and sharing how we might best connect ourselves with God’s dream for our lives. In its current iteration (likely to change based on availability and interest of those who participate) this series is being offered to the parish as a 13-week session.
The plan is to start with about four weeks or so on our Spiritual journeys (we will spend this time working on writing (or in some other way communicating) our Spiritual Autobiographies – or portions of them with one another. We will then do some work on listening for God in our lives and how we might practice that on our own and in community. Maybe three weeks or so. Then we will move into some more specific work on discernment – bringing to God and one another decisions, dilemmas, opportunities and challenges that we are facing within the context of prayerful listening and sharing. We are all at different points in our spiritual journeys and in life – some of us might be facing retirement, or a change in jobs, or decisions about having children, or facing an empty nest, or returning to a course of study, etc etc. Some of us might just want to know how we might better live out one part of our baptismal covenant. We would all ultimately get to the point where we address the following questions: What seems to me to be “God’s dream” for the particular place in life where I am living and serving right now? What is God doing here? What is my piece of the work? Much of this latter work will be based on the good thinking of Dr. Kathleen Staudt who was with us this past year for a Lenten quiet day and who has done a lot of work on this already.
Our first meeting will take place on Sunday October 18, 9:10–10:10 a.m. and we will meet regularly after that – though the timing of the meetings will be up to those who have gathered (and your schedule and commitments). The group will be open to the entire congregation – and we may have to break into two groups if there is an overwhelming level of interest (what an exciting prospect). If we have more than about 12 people, we will have to think about offering it again in the near future.
On October 18, we will meet in the intermediate classroom from 9:15 to 10:15. We may want to adjust the time we meet to perhaps after church over lunch – or some other time when we might be able to meet for more than an hour. This will be up to the assembled group.
I really hope you might want to participate in this first round. If you are interested, please let me know as soon as possible as this will help me plan for the first meeting.
Special thanks to Rachel for helping me think through the Spiritual autobiography piece!
You can read about some of my thinking on this subject at the diocesan blog:
Sundays, 9:15 a.m., September – June
The goal of the Adult Forum is to help parishioners deepen their understanding of the Christian faith and how that faith is relevant in a difficult and uncertain world. The Forum can take many forms: a lecture/presentation by a renowned guest speaker, a round-table moderated by a member of Redeemer’s clergy, or perhaps a discussion led by a group of parishioners.
Although the number of parishioners who participate regularly is strong and growing, the Forum retains the intimacy of a small discussion group. For more information, contact the Parish Office: email@example.com.
Adult Formation Classes
Most of Redeemer’s Christian Formation offerings are led by lay persons. However, the parish clergy regularly offer mid-week and evening classes during the course of the year for adults who seek to explore their faith more deeply. Recent topics have included: Establishing a Rule of Life, An Introduction to The Episcopal Church, Celtic Christianity, and Preparation for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation of Faith. Classes usually include a short presentation, small group sharing, discussion of prayer practices to try at home and, on occasion, other homework.
Christian Contemplative Group
Second Mondays, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m., September – June
The Christian Contemplative Group is a small, intimate group that gathers to deepen contemplative practices in community. Each session begins with a short liturgy of simple chants, readings, and centering prayer. The discussion that follows centers around a selected text. Through these contemplative practices, it is possible to learn to act in new ways, change old patterns, and develop our relationship with God, with ourselves, and others. All are welcome to drop in at any time. For more information, contact parishioner/facilitator Bob Yates: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Education for Ministry
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. September – June
Education for Ministry (EfM), a comprehensive curriculum for theological education developed by the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee), takes place at Redeemer on Tuesday evenings (September – June). Led by parishioner/facilitator Jo Barclay-Beard, the four-year curriculum covers Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament), Christian Scripture (the New Testament), Church history, and Christian ethics and vocation. The curriculum emphasizes theological reflection and worship.
EfM is designed for lay people; it is not intended for those who feel called to the ordained ministry. Participants, who register for one year at a time, do not have to attend The Church of the Redeemer. For more information, contact Jo: email@example.com.