“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.
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.
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.
Vincent Van Gogh’s Pine Trees at Sunset (1889), one of the works Roger discusses.
Visual art enriches our secular lives. We go to museums, purchase and create art, filling halls and homes with pieces that move us. But how might we use visual art as a prayer tool? Artist, author, and Christian formation director Roger Hutchison paints regularly with his hands as a prayer practice. He also takes time in his prayer life to engage with paintings by other artists.
In this course, Roger takes us on a tour of key pieces that have influenced him and deepened his spiritual journey — focusing on quiet time with God, conversation with God, and exploring the imagination. He invites us to find our own journey through praying with visual art.
Roger will guide you through the journeys of artists as they created their pieces and learn to how to inform your own journey through exploring their work. You’ll also learn key steps and questions to ask to tune into your heart and mind when praying with art.
This course is ideal for anyone who is interested in new kinds of prayer and for any Christians who are interested in visual art. For a preview of the course, please click below.
From Face to the Rising Sun: Reflections on Spirituals and Justice by Mark Bozzuti-Jones:
In the sacrament of Holy Eucharist as we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, we always say words akin to these: “do this in memory of me.” To sing Spirituals is to sing in memory of the Slaves and their faith, to recall these songs sung for centuries and handed down to us today as part of the legacy of the African American culture.
In the Christian tradition, prayer and remembering are always a call to action, always a call to repentance, and always a call to redemptive living. When we sing the Spirituals today, we commit to living a life of prayer that ensures justice for all, a life that calls us to make amends for the evil of slavery, and a life that calls us to work against the forces of racism and discrimination still present in our societies today.
In this course, priest, author, and public speaker Mark Bozzuti-Jones asks us to consider spirituals in the light of psalms of suffering created by people who never lost their faith that God was with them, was one of them, and wanted them to be free. He discusses spirituals as cries of suffering, as statements of powerful faith in the face of the worst kind of oppression, and as calls to action.
This course is ideal for anyone interested in African-American spirituals, racial justice, or theology related to human suffering.
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.
If you are looking for a way to engage youth at your church with healthy and respectful ways to combat global poverty and oppression while also guiding them in responsible ways to use money, you should look into Global Philanthropy Leaders (GPL).
GPL teaches teens about global poverty and introduces them to a website that facilitates microloans to struggling entrepreneurs across the world. Using church funds, teens decide where and how to loan the money for which the church has made them responsible. They learn to evaluate borrowers based (1) on what the borrowers want do with their business and (2) on the likelihood that the money will be paid back. When the money is repaid, participants re-loan it to other borrowers. Adults advise the participants, but the teens make the final call on how and to whom they will loan money. At the end of the year, participants present the work they have done to the parish, showing what they have learned and how they have used the church’s money to do the God’s work in the world.
Please note that you do not need to be an expert in any kind of finance to lead a GPL ministry at your church. The curriculum is designed so anyone can lead, and Rich Stein, the curriculum instructor, who co-founded the GPL program at St. Stephen’s and has made many microloans over the years, is happy to answer any questions that come up.
Instructor Rich Stein, co-founder of GPL
GPL began in 2017 at St. Stephen’s. It took off, and when other congregations heard about GPL, they began asking for help building GPL programs at their own churches. Soon, GPL had spread to a dozen parishes, and the St. Stephen’s staff found themselves looking for a way to train people more broadly to use the program. This online curriculum is their solution. (Please note that the curriculum presented here is an in-depth guide to running GPL sessions at your church. For an introduction to the program, check out Raising Young Philanthropists, a ChurchNext short course that gives an overview of the program and its benefits.)
This curriculum guides both leaders and participants through the GPL program. It offers everything you will need to start a GPL program at your church. The curriculum is organized into six sessions. These include scripture readings, prayer, video presentations, discussion opportunities, and activities.
Session One introduces participants to GPL and shows them how to use Kiva international’s web portal at kiva.org to make microloans. It also shows participants how to evaluate borrowers’ potential to repay money.
Session Two familiarizes participants with the seventeen U.N. Sustainable Development goals adopted in 2015. It shows how their work in GPL can make a difference in efforts to eliminate poverty, offering people across the globe the means to improve their quality of life.
Session Three offers a brief history of microloans. It focuses particularly on Muhammad Yunus, who, along with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which he founded, won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work with microloans.
Session Four teaches participants basic skills for maintaining healthy personal finances. It asks students to consider ways in which the Christian faith influences our approach to our finances.
Session Five introduces participants to the most serious issues related to hunger and malnutrition across the globe and discusses the wisest ways to combat starvation and malnutrition..
Session Six teaches students about making presentations and how to make their end-of-year presentation to their congregation.
The GPL curriculum is ideal for people looking for new ways to engage youth at their parish in doing Christ’s work in the world. For a preview, please click below.
Humanity’s relationship with pets goes back a long way. Humans were still hunter-gatherers when we first domesticated dogs around 11,000 years ago. Cats were pickier about aligning with humans, waiting until about 8000 years ago to be domesticated (though in their case, evidence suggests we didn’t so much domesticate them as accept their decision to live with us.)
The nature of human relationships with pets has developed over thousands of years. Today, it differs across the world. In western culture, many pets offer humans companionship, amusement, distraction, and even exercise. When we are sad, troubled, or tired, snuggling with that kind of pet can bring comfort and peace, and they give us opportunities to offer love and care for them. Other animals with whom we might have less affectionate relationships offer endless opportunities for wonder, curiosity, and surprise.
Bringing an animal into our home as a pet bring us out of our human-focused mindset and into direct relationship with an element of God’s created world. When we observe a cat stretching, wonder at the graceful movements of tropical fish in a tank, try to discern how our pet bird thinks when it sees the world so differently from how we see it, we are taking opportunities to connect with creation in all its diverse glory. The fact that we often seek out these opportunities — that, in a culture where many of us no longer need pets for practical reasons, so many of us take on the expense and responsibility of caring for animals — suggests that some quality deep in human nature longs for this connection with the created world.
In this class, the Rev. Emily Mellott discusses ways in which our connection with animals brings humans, ultimately, into relationship with God, and ways in which mindful animal care can help bring us closer to God. Click below for a preview.
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.
The concept of the Trinity is ancient and fundamental to Church history, but scripture does not offer details about early Church debates on this doctrine. Instead, scripture describes the persons that make up the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, as a community within God, in relationship with one another.
In this class, Wayne Jacobsen, an author and spiritual leader who co-wrote The Shack, presents the Trinity, not as a mathematical formula, but as an interrelated community. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three parts of whole, but only exist as God in relationship with each other. Wayne describes how each part of the Trinity holds a specific purpose and how they each can help us enter into life with God. We are always invited if we only have eyes to see, ears to hear, and mouths to ask.
In this course, Wayne takes us on a journey through understanding the three persons of the Trinity, their special purposes and how we can engage each of them in our prayer lives and, in turn, be invited into life within the Trinity, with the Divine.
This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about the divine mystery that is the Trinity. For a preview of the course, please click below.