Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tools for Spiritual Formation

The March/April 2014 issue of Horizons, entitled "Bible 301," provides many tools for equipping the church for making disciples. Here are highlights of a few articles and how I've seen them reflected in our congregations.

The Artful Christian:  Nurturing Faith Through Art, pp. 12-15
Katherine M. Douglas urges us to consider incorporating the arts, not just language, into our expressions of faith, but suggests that creative expression draws us closer to our Creator God and all people.  For nearly 50 years the Interpretive Arts Team at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portage has prepared a visual arts interpretation of their church's Sunday worship theme.  They keep a photo gallery of each display in their library.  For the second year, they have sponsored and hosted a juried art festival during lent.  This year's theme is Earth Care.  This year's Exhibit is one display through April 22 when winners will be announced and celebrated.   Rev. Timothy Chon, the pastor of North Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lansing taught liturgical art seminar at Princeton Theology Seminary during his Sabbatical last year, is the director of the art studio at the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program at St. Francis Spirituality Center in DeWitt, and is on the worship committee for the 221st General Assembly.

How to Study a Bible Passage, pp.16-19
Donald L. Griggs, former professor at P.S.C.E (Presbyterian School of Christian Education) in Richmond, Virginia, my wife, Eileen's professor when she was a student there, offers timeless suggestions of both resources to consult and questions to ask) for making Bible study enriching.  Nothing new here for seminary graduates, but clear direction for discipling persons who are unfamiliar with the Bible.  Rev. Charlotte Ellison, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Albion recently lead a dialectic interactive sermon with the Albion congregation using many of the techniques and questions outlined here.

Bound Together in Love:  Bible Study as Group Process and Possession, pp. 20-23
Sharon Dunne Gillies celebrates the gift and value of the Presbyterian Women's historic practice of a group doing Bible Study together.  Presbyterian Women have been publishing a Bible Study for many years.  The Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba does the same.  The Administration Ministry Team of Lake Michigan Presbyterian prepared a Stewardship Curriculum "Building Hope" in 2010, which bound many of us together.  Imagine the members and Sessions of Presbytery covenanting to engage a text for the year?

Reading Plans for the Bible, pp. 24-25
Chip Hardwick, PC(USA) Mission Agency Director of Theology, Worship and Education, spotlights various methods for reading the Bible in its entirety.  My fondest memory of my seminary experience was a concentrated January English Bible course with Elizabeth Achtemeier.  We read through the Bible in a month, while Dr. Achtemeier lectured on the broader themes.  She used old Bible Content Ordination Exam questions to test us and prepare us for the Ordination Exam two weeks later. Compared to the exegetical courses which examined particular texts, it was like sitting in an Amtrak traveling across the country, watching the scenery fly by in a blur.

Websites, Apps and Streaming Content! Online Resources for Bible Study and Prayer, pp.27-29  
Kathryn McGregor profiles some of the best websites and smartphone apps for engaging in focused, informed Bible Study.  The directors of Presbyterian resource centers and Christian Educators now have an online resource center  The group doesn't create content, but sifts through the tremendous number of online resources for faith formation and determines which ones are appropriate for Presbyterians.  Some highlighted in the article are:  Bible apps...  and  and  Devotional Apps: is sponsored by the PC(USA) and two other denominations.  Prayer Apps:   The PC(USA) offers the Daily Prayer PC(USA) app which includes psalms, readings from the daily lectionary, prayers of thanksgiving and intersession, and concluding prayers for morning, midday, evening and the close of day from the Book of Common Worship.  At a recent gathering of judicatory leaders in Central Michigan, the Roman Catholic Bishop was embarrassed when he realized that he had agreed to lead us in an opening devotional worship.  He had forgotten!  Yikes!!   Without batting an eye, he pulled out his smart phone, opened the Catholic Prayer Book app and led us with the mid day prayer liturgy and text.  No sweat!

Tools for the spiritual formation of disciples in the 21st Century!  Good stuff!  God speed!