As COVID ravaged communities and closed the physical houses of worship, the Diocese of Newark offered churches another way to share both the challenges and blessings faced by those struggling with the absence of community. Under the leadership of Cynthia McChesney, Missioner for Stewardship and Legacy Giving, and the Rev. Canon Margo Peckham Clark, Canon for Congregational Life, churches heard how to form Small Faith Groups led by parishioners who meet frequently to receive support, counsel and prayer. For the past two years, St. Mark’s Church in Teaneck has hosted three Small Faith Groups. Co-conveners and participants shared their experiences with this unique and very fulfilling style of worship. (Time: 3:42.)
The Rev. Joan Conley, Rector: So when the diocese first offered, everything was still on Zoom, when it was a Zoom session that they offered on small faith groups. And there were a few different folks from St. Mark's and myself that were really curious about this and wanted to find out more. So we popped on the Zoom, to find out more about the small faith groups. And the great thing about St. Mark's is following that Zoom, everyone who had been a part of that contacted me and said, "Oh, my gosh, this is awesome. Can we do it?"
Marsha Mackey, Small Faith Group Co-Convener: We've been successful in having three groups that have been operating, I think going on two years now. The men's group is the largest. And the women's group, I think we meet every other week, or at least twice a month.
Yanna Huls, Small Faith Group Co-Convener: Being part of the small faith group as the facilitator is, it's a gift to me, because it has opened my eyes to all the different lenses we can use to look at scripture, to look at different spiritual writings outside of scripture, and to explore community and spiritual community.
Joann Riccardi, Small Faith Group Participant: It's a source of strength. And when we're going through rough times, it gives us that assurance that additional people are praying for us, especially for what we're going through, and it makes you feel, it gives you the strength to move on.
Ski Austin, Small Faith Group Co-Convener: I think in terms of our spiritual life, it's to our advantage to actually talk about it, and to be with each other and to hear how other individuals connect to that subject. And, and I would also say, many of us are from different religious backgrounds, and to hear how a certain subject has affected them, either through their childhood, their upbringing, their former churches, or, or no church, and, and to see how it manifests itself now.
Marsha Mackey, Small Faith Group Co-Convener: Leading a small faith group is really, it's a very simple thing to do. We all gather together. We check in with each other, how are we wiser, how our couple of weeks were since we last met, and then we share where God has moved or sort of touched us or shown up in our lives since we last met.
Joann Riccardi, Small Faith Group Participant: Jesus called us all to minister to each other. And this is a way that we can minister to each other.
Yanna Huls, Small Faith Group Co-Convener: It's a safe space where we can express that love. It's a safe space where we can cry together. It's a safe space where we can laugh together. It's a safe space where we can question our own decisions, and know that our questions will be heard, and not judged. Simply being together. It's a place where we can pray together honestly, or choose not to, say, "I just can't say that right now. I don't believe that." It's a safe space and it's a wonderful space.