Friday evening, January 29 and Saturday morning, January 30, people from all around our diocese gathered electronically to listen, try out, and learn about the practice of small Faith Groups. Well over two-thirds of our parishes were represented and there was a lot of excitement around how this practice might help us to deepen community and connect people to God and each other through Christ. In this time, when it isn’t possible to gather in the same physical space, new connections were made while trying this practice that goes all the way back to Jesus and the first disciples.
Friday evening, the group heard from our Bishop on Isaiah 43:19, and that verse of the Bible was a thread throughout the event. After that, 22 randomized small groups were “dropped” into Zoom breakout “rooms” to try out a Faith Group meeting.
The four steps of a Faith Group meeting are to gather, share, reflect and pray. After gathering with short intros about name and parish, everyone in these groups had the opportunity to share about where they had seen God at work recently, how they heard God in Isaiah 43:19, and to pray with and for each other before returning to the main Zoom “room.” As the large group reconvened, the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable, and the faces of many participants were smiling and shining with joy.
Saturday morning focused on nuts and bolts. Participants watched a video from a parish on the west coast that has used this practice very successfully. That video and other materials about Faith Groups are available here. Clergy and Lay Facilitators from around the diocese went over next steps in introducing the practice into parishes, some ongoing needs such as regularly inviting people, particularly newcomers, into groups, and what to look for in facilitators and coordinators. The group completed this two-day learning event with Noonday prayer.
Parishes may contact Cynthia McChesney, Canon Clark, or any of the other facilitators from the learning event to schedule a coaching session. There will also be a workshop available at Church Leader University on March 6.
Many thanks to the planning team: Joy Manasse, (St. Andrew & Holy Communion, South Orange), Paul Shackford (St. Andrew’s, Harrington Park), Grant Mansfield (Rector, St. George’s, Maplewood), Paula Tolland (Rector, St. Stephen’s, Millburn), Martha Bougner (St. James, Upper Montclair), Nina Nicholson, Canon Wright and Cynthia McChesney. Thanks also to John King, Randy Johnson, and Jane Jubilee for providing support. God is doing something new in our diocese!