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: 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.

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.

ChurchNext Lenten Resources

Lent is approaching, and ChurchNext offers a buffet of Lenten resources, so step right up and make your choice. (These are especially useful tools for a Lenten season like this one in which some people may not be gathering in person because the classes offer participants opportunities for online discussions.)

Curricula

Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. You can register for the course today. The course content will become available January 31.

Designed for study over a period of six weeks, the curriculum explores how systemic racism has been integrated into U.S. culture from the very beginning as well as the Episcopal Church’s history of active participation in systemic racism. The curriculum offers guidance on learning from this history and building toward what Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes as “the Beloved Community of God.” Each of the six sessions include half-hour videos, optional self-assessments, opportunities for discussion, take-home materials, and recommendations for further research. The course is led by two experts on the topic of system racism and the church: Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, affiliate professor of church history at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples

Do you long to grow in your relationship with Christ? Take a ‘Lenten challenge’ and join The Rev. Christopher Martin on an inspiring and informative journey, in which he offers insights into discipleship that can be truly transformative. In this course he touches on various habits and disciplines that can easily be incorporated into our walk with Christ.

 

 

 

A Spring in the Desert with Frank and Victoria Logue For Individuals and For Groups

This curriculum, based on Frank and Victoria’s book A Spring in the Desert, examines the seven Christian virtues through the lens of the desert. Using historical accounts of the desert fathers and mothers, meditations based on plant life and imagery of the desert, and scriptural references to the desert, Frank and Victoria walk participants through the Lenten season.

 

Classes 

Your church and families within your church may find the following classes helpful during Lent:

Making Sense of the Cross Parts 1-3: These three courses  offer David Lose’s examination of how to understand Jesus’ death on the cross in the context of our life experiences (part one), the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death (part two), and theological interpretations (part three).

Introducing Lent with Maggi Dawn: This class offers people new to the church and anyone who wants a refreshed understanding of the season an overview of Lent. Author, priest, scholar, and teacher Maggi Dawn discusses Lent’s history in the church and ways that we observe and commemorate the Lenten season today.

Lent for Families with Kim Baker: In this class, longtime educator and priest Kim Baker discusses ways that families can celebrate a rich Lenten season together.

Walk in Love Part 2: Marking Time with Scott Gunn and Melody Shobe: This course is part of our Walk in Love series. It goes through the church year as a whole, including a lot of focused discussion about Lent and Holy Week. This class is another one that people new to the church might find particularly useful.

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.