Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 4

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 4 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the fourth 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.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In the third course in this series, Vicki discussed overviews and major themes in the following books: Book of Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths, Prayer of Manasseh, Susannah and Bel and the Dragon, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

In this course, Vicki offers her own suggestions for how Christians can use apocryphal books as spiritual resources today. In particular, she suggests ways in which we can find comfort, guidance, hope, and peace in particular books from the Apocrypha. Her video lectures include:

  • Comfort: Wisdom of Solomon
  • Guidance: Tobit
  • Hope: 1 and 2 Maccabees
  • Peace: Baruch

The Apocrypha 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. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the third 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.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In this course, Vicki offers an overview and discusses important themes in the following books:

  • Book of Baruch
  • Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Susannah and Bel and the Dragon
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the third 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. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the second 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.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course, Vicki examines the following texts and gives an overview of each:

  • 1 and 2 Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Additions to Esther
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Sirach

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the second 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. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Ezra and Esther especially). For a course preview, please click below.

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 — Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We just launched Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. This  six-session curriculum is offered for free to any individual, congregation, or other group looking for deeper understanding of how systemic racism operates in our country and in our church, and for suggestions about what to do next in the process of Becoming Beloved Community.

In her powerful 2020 book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson writes, “America is an old house. We can never declare the work over…Not one of us was here when this house was built…but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation…they are ours to deal with now.”

[Image: “Old House” by Patty Fleckenstein. Used with permission. Prints available on Etsy.]

If we look at America as an old house, as Wilkerson suggests, we can see racism as a structural flaw. It’s central to the house’s framework, and not by accident. Many white Americans approach racism as an age-old human problem that history has never been able to surmount. In this course, Dr. Ivy Forsythe Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, Associate Professor of Church History at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts, show us that on the contrary, while hostility to people and groups conceived as “the Other” has been a problem throughout human history, racism is a human construct — and not even a very old one — built for purposes of oppression.

As the current owners of this old house, the structural flaw of racism is ours to deal with now — as is the responsibility if we ignore the problems and allow them to grow.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, calls racism America’s original sin because of the inherited and fundamental nature of the problem — and, as with original sin, by the grace of God, we have hope. We can rebuild our house to eradicate structural racism and its many effects. The process will not be easy, or quick, or painless, but we can, and must do this work. As citizens who are responsible for the nation we have inherited and as Christians who are charged to love other human beings and resist sin, it is necessary on many levels that we make these changes. This course is designed to be an early step in that process.

In this course, Ivy and Tom take us through six sessions of material.

In Session One: Race, Privilege, and Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom describe this course’s mission in the context of the Christian call to resist racism, and they define key terms.

In Session Two: Building a Strong Foundation Ivy discusses how, if we alter our own behaviors, we can change the way we construct race and thereby contribute to dismantling systemic racism. She looks at key examples of systemic racism being deliberately incorporated into U.S. political and economic policies in the first 150 years of our history.

In Session Three: Systemic Racism in the U.S., Ivy examines U.S. history after the 1920s. She examines specific examples of deliberately constructed systemic racism and shows how they have led directly to racial injustices today.

In Session Four: The Episcopal Church and Race, Tom discusses The Episcopal Church’s active complicity in U.S. systemic racism and errors we have made in our attempts to combat racism. He talks about ways we can learn from our mistakes.

In Session Five: Racial Reconciliation and Personal Empowerment, Tom and Ivy discuss white privilege and white silence on racial matters as significant barriers to Becoming Beloved Community. They talk about ways to do productive racial justice work in your local community.

In Session Six: Actively Building Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom talk about traps into which people may fall, accepting or perpetuating racism without necessarily recognizing it, and how to avoid them. They talk about concrete actions congregations can take to Become Beloved Community.

At the end of the course, we hope each participant will have learned more about:

  • The racism inherent to our nation’s social, political, and economic structures.
  • The far-reaching effects of the racist policies white people have implemented into these structures.
  • The participation of The Episcopal Church in creating and sustaining systemic racism.
  • The need to change those structures and repair their negative effects.
  • Barriers to changing those structures to make them truly egalitarian (and how to overcome them).
  • The next steps we should take as congregations and individuals in Becoming Beloved Community.
  • Many resources for learning more about systemic racism and about taking effective action.

We hope you will join us in learning about Becoming Beloved Community in our congregations, in our local communities, and in our nation. The work to which we are called is urgent and complex and requires all of us to bring effort and empathy to the task. Take this first step today.

The course is funded by the grants from Episcopal Church’s Presiding Officers’ Advisory Council on Becoming Beloved Community and the Diocese of Michigan and by Forward Movement. We are grateful for their support.

Starting Thursday: FREE Live Class on the Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey

It’s Good Book Club time again, and as usual, ChurchNext is offering a FREE, live class in connection with the GBC program. This year, Vicki Garvey will be back to talk about Exodus in our Live Course: The Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey.

“Finally, I get to talk about the part of the Bible that is my first love,” writes Vicki. Those of you who have taken other classes with Vicki have seen the high quality of her teaching on other books of the Bible. Now imagine her talking about part of the Bible she describes as her “first love.” Whether or not you plan to formally participate in the Good Book Club, you really don’t want to miss this class.

Vicki Garvey is a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. She has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study, and we are very blessed to have her teaching this class. Vicki has already taught live courses on the Gospels of John, Matthew, and Mark. Her Gospel of Mark class was so popular that participants went back and viewed recordings of her classes on the Gospels of John and Matthew. We are grateful to have another chance to work with her.

Here’s how it works: from January 6 through February 10, every Thursday night at 8 p.m. E.S.T., participants will click on a link to a Zoom classroom to listen to Vicki Garvey’s talks about Exodus and to ask questions/participate in discussion. Course materials will be available on an online ChurchNext course. We will also post recordings of the class meetings on the course page, so don’t worry if you can’t attend every class meeting.

You can take this course with others from your congregation or on your own.

Sign up here today! We look forward to seeing you on January 6.

Just Launched: FREE Each Other’s Keeper Curriculum

In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, we have just launched Each Other’s Keeper For Individuals and For Groups.

This curriculum has emerged from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri’s years of effort to reduce violence and to support victims of violence in their community.

Over the past few years, the Diocese of Missouri has focused much attention on resisting violence and mitigating effects of violence in its communities, particularly in St. Louis. It emerged from an anti-violence campaign the diocese instituted in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown and in the context of increasing violence in the community. It was written and put together by the Rev. Marc Smith, appointed in 2015 to lead diocesan efforts to reduce gun violence and coordinate intervention work with others in the region.

Now, in an effort to bring this curriculum to anyone who wants to learn about mitigating the effects of violence in their own communities, they have adapted it for a national audience.

 

The curriculum’s first section addresses violence in scripture. In a series of books very focused on violence — in which pivotal incidents like the invasion of Canaan in the Old Testament and the crucifixion in the New Testament depend on violence — what are Christians to understand when Christ asks us to turn the other cheek? What can we learn about following Christ in relation to violence when we read scripture?

 

 

The second section deals with gun violence. Incidents of suicide, domestic violence, homicide, and accidental shootings, as well as the incidents of public mass murder we read about so often, all grow with our access to firearms. Because the ways gun violence emerges in the community vary, our laws should address gun regulations with a more precise focus on different types of gun violence, why they happen, and the best ways to reduce each type of gun violence. This section asks, how can Christians help communities address gun violence regulations with the precision and care the topics require?

 

The third section focuses on youth bullying and suicide. It draws connections between ways and reasons young people experience bullying and suicide rates. It also looks at suicide itself — why people, particularly young people, make this choice, effective ways for communities to support people at risk for suicide, and ways to reach out to survivors.

 

The fourth section addresses violence against women, focusing in particular on domestic violence and sexual assault. Its goals: to educate people about the challenges abuse and assault survivors face and to educate churches on create environments that ensure that all are kept safe from harm, hold abusers accountable, and embrace those who have survived.

 

The fifth section discusses forgiveness and reconciliation. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to help us forgive those who sin against us — but the need to forgive, especially when forgiveness is demanded of them, can become an additional burden on people who have been abused. How can we treat victims of violence with respect for what they have endured while also embracing forgiveness? How can we model reconciliation on the level of the wider culture while also holding oppressors and instigators of violence accountable for their actions?

This curriculum is perfect for Christians interested in interrupting cycles of violence in their communities or in supporting survivors of various forms of violence. We hope you will emerge with a greater understanding of the complexities related to violence in its various forms and with a sense of where you might go next in your efforts to interrupt the cycles of violence so prevalent in our culture today.

All of the above photographs were taken for this curriculum by the Rev. Anne Kelsey.

Just Launched: Discovering a Practice of Prayer with Rhonda Mawhood Lee

We just launched Discovering a Practice of Prayer with Rhonda Mawhood Lee For Individuals and For Groups.

Prayer is a primary way Christians fulfill the great commandment to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves, and it’s the foundation of everything else we do to show that love. Yet, for something so integral to the practice of our faith, prayer remains stubbornly mysterious. What happens when we pray? Do our prayers change anything? How should we pray? These questions persist.

Although some of these mysteries won’t be resolved on this side of eternal life, Jesus calls his disciples to pray anyway and assures us that our prayers matter. In prayer, we consciously devote time to cultivating our relationship with God, trusting that this relationship can transform our souls, our lives, and the world. But even when we want to pray, the question remains: How do we pray?

In this course, Rhonda Mawhood Lee examines prayer in terms of what it is and why Christians engage it. She talks about different kinds of prayer — prayer with words and prayer in silence; prayer in stillness and prayer in motion; prayers at special times or in special locations (labyrinths, churches, outdoors) and prayer in our homes whenever makes most sense to us. Most importantly, she emphasizes that however we choose to do it, God desires our interaction and company through prayer. Finding new ways to spend time with God is a spiritual mainstay of the Christian life and will help us as we seek to find and be found by the divine.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about prayer or enriching their prayer lives.

Just Launched: Hybrid Ministry that Makes Sense with Ryan Panzer

We just launched Hybrid Ministry that Makes Sense with Ryan Panzer For Individuals and For Groups.

As of 2019, some churches were exploring the use of online resources, experimenting with making Sunday worship available as a webinar or using online courses like this one as part of Christian formation.

Then 2020 happened. Suddenly, online resources were the floating bit of wood and churches were Kate Winslett in Titanic.

It may not be warm, but Zoom fellowship hour is what we’ve got.

The pandemic forced many churches to embrace online ministry very quickly and without the luxury of mindfulness. Now, as we begin integrating in-person worship with online ministries, we’re faced with creating a new normal. We’ve found online options we like, but we have learned to value in-person interactions as we never have before. How will we integrate what we’ve learned about ministering to congregations online with what we already knew and loved about in-person ministries?

In this course, Ryan Panzer, a church consultant, author, and public speaker on hybrid ministry, suggests effective ways to approach building online ministry and in-person ministry together. He observes that since this is the first time we’ve tried engaging hybrid ministry on a widespread level, there are no blueprints for doing it, which means that we can’t build on what has been done well. On the other hand, having no one “right” way of doing it gives our imaginations free reign to build hybrid ministry into new, exciting ways of spreading Jesus’ message and inspiring people to do God’s work in the world.

Topics Ryan covers include offering a basic philosophy for approaching hybrid ministry, suggesting ways to balance building on- and offline communities, offering ways to build strong hybrid ministry offerings, and suggesting methods for evaluating, sharing, and improving hybrid ministries.

This course is ideal for anyone wondering how to reshape ministry using online and in-person options. For a preview, please click below.

Just Launched — Dreams and Divinity: What God Tells Us Through Our Dreams with Carrie Graves

We have just launched Dreams and Divinity: What God Tells Us Through Our Dreams with Carrie Graves For Individuals and For Groups.

The Rev. John Sanford called dreams “God’s Forgotten Language.” Dreams are a critical component to the spiritual journey in scripture but we have long lost the practice of using dreams ourselves to discern God’s purpose in our lives and who God is calling us to be.

Science has shown that every creature that has eyelids, dreams – experiences R.E.M. sleep. Most of us have observed a dog or cat when they are dreaming, paws twitching, whimpering or growling. Something is happening. The brain is processing, and this processing is as integral a part of our well-being as breathing.

Dreams are symbolic and metaphorical. When we are asleep the logical, linear parts of our brains “turn off, opening access to parts that are most open to God and the language of metaphor and symbol. Like the many symbols of our faith, our dream images are icons upon which we can gaze to discern meaning in our lives, to discern who God has created each of us to be. Nightly dreams are calling us to growth, healing and wholeness so that we might be the best version of ourselves to better live as Christ in the world.

In this class, Carrie Graves, Canon for Communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and trained dream group leader through the Haden Institute, discusses the principles of dream work in a congregational setting and as part of our individual faith journeys. Carrie guides us through an overview of the spiritual practice of dream work in a group setting and offers suggestions on how we can bring dream work back into our lives and back into the life of the Church.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about how understanding our dreams can enhance our spiritual lives. For a preview of the course, please click below.