Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2 and The Book of Common Prayer, p. 376
The Lenten class is a common fixture in many churches. We are offering a marvelous program based on the book Walk in Love by Rev. Scott Gunn and Rev. Melody Shobe. It’s an Episcopal take on what it means to live the Christian life, and covers a wide range of topics from scripture and doctrine to what is The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. As a five week Lenten series whose primary teaching tools are short videos from the program, supplemented with some scriptural foundation and background in our tradition, it only scratches the surface, hopefully whetting appetites for more formation and fellowship.
I am fortunate to facilitate a group representative of St. Paul’s parishioners who are comfortable in English (I hope that the ChurchNext publisher rolls out Spanish subtitles soon!) Half-way through the program, I have been moved by three insights.
The first is the beauty of seeing the Holy Spirit at work. People have opened to telling stories about their own faith. The child who learned about Christ from an attentive uncle. The young person who talked about being born again as an adolescent. And there is much wisdom at our table. Like the newcomer who, while acknowledging our beautiful sanctuary, exclaimed “But the church isn’t the building; it’s the people!” Such witness always seems fresh and new to me, and I am grateful, because I end up being nourished by my fellow pilgrims.
The second insight might called “only in the Europe” or “only in Rome” learnings. Nearly everyone was fascinated with the story of The Episcopal Church, because we are always getting asked how what we belong to is different from Roman Catholicism. And several of the Italian participants shared how they find new layers of meaning in the English translations of Scripture. Our Italian parishioners come to St. Paul’s for various reasons, but one of them is the way that our scriptural and worship tradition deepens their faith. Plant an Episcopal church in another culture, and see what new thing arises (Isaiah 43:19). It is a kind of cross-evangelization that is a particular gift of the Convocation.
Finally, I am realizing how much satisfaction there is in something as simple as setting out some strawberries and cheese for our sessions. Set the table with love, and let God do the rest.