“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” More than a cute, feel-good philosophy in this year of the pandemic, parishioners have taken the lemon handed to them in the form of COVID-19 and social distancing to make lemonade by utilizing online platforms such as Zoom to grow in their faith together. Though it may not be the ideal, virtual faith formation and sharing is bearing fruit here at Pax Christi, with the hope that the 2020-21 program year will be even better.
One of the opportunities that has been offered is the Virtual Book Club. Parishioner Patti Christensen has been the primary facilitator of the book club over the past three years and felt a strong calling to offer something during the days of social distancing. Over the past few months, participants have gathered on a weekly basis, using Zoom, to discuss the books—Gift of the Red Bird by Paula D’Arcy and I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck. Parishioner Mary Lanners has participated in both of the virtual book club offerings and said “I have really enjoyed the book club. It is a great way to stay connected, especially with COVID.” She was also quick to point out that “Patti is great keeping us engaged and always some humor and camaraderie.”
Parishioner Sarah Byerley also speaks highly of her experience. "I have been part of the Book Club since it began three years ago. The book club group has connected me to wonderful people, and we have formed our own community that supports, celebrates, and walks together. We share our feelings and desires and enjoy one another’s company. I have learned much from the books and the people in the group."
Another adult formational opportunity that has been utilizing Zoom to connect people is the Lectio Divina weekly practice groups. Each week, small groups of parishioners engage in the ancient practice of “Divine Reading” of the upcoming Gospel reading for the Sunday liturgy. Parishioner Hideki Yamada, who participates in the Wednesday lunchtime group facilitated by staff member Jessie Johnson, remarked, “I have been practicing lectio on my own for some time, but to do it as a group is a wholly new and enriching experience. This Wednesday lectio session is a highlight of my week.” Fred Baumer, who also participates in the Wednesday group, added that he finds joy in “hearing how each person is guided by something different in the Scriptures.”
Andy Leet, the current chair of the Lifelong Faith Formation Committee and active member in our Men’s Ministries, participates in the Saturday morning group and echoed the sentiments of those in the Wednesday group. "The virtual Lectio Divina session on Saturday morning has been a great way for me to start off the day. The different perspectives of that week's gospel reading from the other group members regularly gives me additional food for thought to reflect on for the rest of the weekend."
Given the fruitfulness of these virtual opportunities, and the uncertainty around when we will be able to resume onsite programming, Pax Christi has decided to offer a plethora of opportunities in the fall of 2020. Here are a few of the offerings:
Lectio Divina: Weekly Prayer Group
Prayerfully reflect with others on the Gospel reading for the upcoming liturgy, discerning together how God is speaking to us today, as well as discern how we are calling to respond. Parishioners are welcome to join already established groups which currently meet on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
Introduction to Centering Prayer: Wednesday, September 16
Centering Prayer is a receptive, deep method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer. Through this prayer we experience God's presence within us—closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. A morning and evening option are available.
Book Club: The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton
The classic story of a brilliant and passionate young man, who at the age of twenty-six, takes vows as a Trappist monk. At the abbey, he wrote this extraordinary testament, a unique spiritual autobiography that has been recognized as one of the most influential religious works of our time. It begins the week of September 21, with Monday evening and Tuesday morning options available.
Gospel of Mark: Five-Week Bible Study
These gatherings will be a combination of learning about the historical context of the Gospel, combined with deep reflection on the spiritual and moral consequences the text has in the life of a disciple. Virtual gatherings begin the week of September 28, with options of Monday mornings or Wednesday evenings.
Living in the Sacred: Six-Week RENEW Small Group Series
Based on the insights of Fr. Ron Rolheiser from his book Sacred Fire, participants will engage in short weekly readings and in-depth discussions on what it means to embrace and live out an adult spirituality. Virtual gatherings begin the week of September 27 on Sunday evenings or Thursday mornings.
Engaging Spirituality: Seven-Week JustFaith Series
The aim of these virtual gatherings is to teach participants to combine contemplative practice with social outreach. The program will begin in early October, with options to join a Tuesday afternoon group, or one that meets on Thursday evenings.
In addition, the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and Women with Spirit Bible Study will also be utilizing virtual technology to gather participants together in the fall. Information about all these opportunities is available on the parish calendar, or by contacting staff member, Scott Brazil.