How to Offer Virtual For Groups Sessions of Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We recently launched a free 6-session curriculum, Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. We had a request for some help sharing the For Groups course virtually, for communities that prefer meeting online to meeting in person, and we thought we’d extend our suggestions to the rest of the ChurchNext community.

This curriculum comes with 6 video sessions (each 25-30 minutes long) that are available on the ChurchNext course page and a downloadable Facilitator’s Guide and Participant’s Guide. The Facilitator’s Guide is designed so anyone can lead. It includes suggestions for opening and closing prayers, structuring the class, and moderating discussion as well as the discussion questions for each session and resources for further study. The Participant’s Guide includes short summaries of each video’s main points, the discussion questions for each session, and resources for further study.

We suggest ensuring that each participant has a copy of the Participant’s Guide before the course begins. (You can download it and email it to participants with the link to the virtual meeting.) The moderator can use the Facilitator’s Guide. When everyone has arrived to the virtual meeting, begin the formal session with prayer. Then the course facilitator can share their screen and play the video for everyone (remember to share your sound!). It might help to encourage reactions in the chat as everyone watches. Chatting helps with engagement and reminds people what questions came up as they watched.

After the video is finished, the facilitator may stop sharing their screen and encourage discussion. (You may want to set some group norms to begin the conversation; the Facilitator’s Guide has suggestions about this on page 4.) If the group is large, the facilitator may prefer to utilize breakout rooms, which break people into small groups for conversation. (Here is a guide on how to use breakout rooms in Zoom, and many other meeting sites offer small group discussion options as well.) If you prefer to stay in the main group, run the discussion as you would an in-person meeting, with a moderator. People can ask their own questions and use the ones written for the course (available in both the guides). Ideally, they will use both. At the end of the session, close with a prayer.

We hope these suggestions help you as you decide how best to utilize these courses in your congregation. They will work for shorter For Groups courses as well if you intersperse the shorter videos with periods of discussion.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the first of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

Many Christians are curious about the Apocrypha — the series of books that are biblical canon for some branches of the church and not for others; that aren’t quite biblical for the Anglican communion and for Protestant churches in general but are included in some Protestant Bibles. What exactly are these books? What is their status in the church? If they aren’t biblical, why do we sometimes find them in bibles? What makes them different from other books of their time on Judeo-Christian topics that are excluded from both the biblical canon and the Apocrypha?

Examining how the apocryphal books became the Apocrypha by definition teaches us about how the biblical books became the Bible. Both contain texts that were floating around the Mediterranean region for centuries that claimed to offer insight into humanity’s relationship with the Judeo-Christian God. Why were some deemed inspired while others were considered wise but not biblical canon? Why did some branches of the Church deem the works canonical while others did not? What process was involved in making these decisions?

This class is the first in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. In the first class, Vicki introduces the Apocrypha. She gives an overview of the books and discusses how the various major branches of the church use them. She talks about how they relate to canonical biblical texts and the history and genre expectations that framed the books. Finally, she touches on the canonization process and the difference between apocryphal works and the pseudepigrapha (books that did not make it into either the Bible or the Apocrypha).

This class will interest anyone who has wondered what the books of the Apocrypha are, why they have been established as apocryphal instead of biblical, and how and why we use them today. For a course preview, please click below.