And Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you continue in my Word, you are my true disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” ( John 18: 34,35)
Christian Discipleship is an exciting journey. An intimate connect with Christ invites us into the joys, adventures and challenges of constantly deciphering what it means to be a disciple. The word disciple comes from the root “discipulus” which means “one who studies”- one who constantly continues in the Word. Belonging to the Body of Christ as disciples brings with it both blessings and responsibilities. These need to be constantly understood afresh in every context so that the Church would remain relevant as salt of the earth and light of the world all the time to ALL the people.
A structured Lay Training programme was the response of the diocese to the expressed desire that came from the different Chaplaincies, that given the context in which we live, it would be a worthwhile initiative, to equip the people of God, to be the yeast that leavens the communities in which they are placed.
The Working Group that was tasked at the Cologne Synod in 2019 to design a Diocesan Lay Discipleship Training Module formulated a course titled Walking Together in Faith responding to the mandate given to them. This included Building up the body of Christ, Sharing the fragrance of Christ across Europe, Striving for a just and sustainable world, Working for reconciliation and Resourcing ministry,
Originally intended to be in person sessions in small groups across the diocese the vision expanded taking into account the possibilities opened by the Pandemic in the use of digital media. The prayer sessions offered for Kiev and Ukraine in the wake of the war further revealed the great potential zoom opened up for the people across the diocese to come together with one heart and mind. It was only natural that the diocese decided to tap this facility for the Lay Discipleship Training Programme
The Diocese in Europe is spread across forty countries in Europe, Turkey, Morocco and Russia and has over 300 congregations. When it is now possible that despite the geographical challenges it is possible to seekers from across these congregations to digitally come together and pursue their passion of learning together why not make the best of this great and dynamic possibility.
The Methodology Envisaged
Since it is in the initial phase everyone is aware that the course would evolve across time. However initially it is intended to offer the course online and also off-line. The Online Zoom modules would be offered as 90 minute sessions every fortnight. The Four modules each having five sessions is expected to run through an year. For those who wish to have a Certificate in acknowledgement will be asked to be part of a creative assessment process.
“The course is open to all lay members of the Church – from people simply looking to learn more about the Christian faith to individuals exploring the possibility of formal lay ministry”.
For in person study groups that could happen at the Chaplaincy and where ever feasible at the Deanery level the people who would lead the session would be offered proper training and orientation. All the course material will be available in the Diocesan website for the participants to take a look to understand what they are signing in. However the dynamics could evolve with time responding to the feedback from the participants and the Management group.
Each unit will start with prayer and would then engage in a conversation to set the stage with updates on the context in which we read the Bible and seek to interpret the text. There would then be a Theological, Biblical and Experiential input based on the material already made available. Time for Stories of the people and reflection would be followed by bringing the discussion into the context of the Diocese and seeking to “expand the horizons” of the participants. After prayer the participants would be encourage to “continue to the journey with fresh insights”. The time till the next meeting it is expected that the faculty of observation and interpretation would be more active than usual.
Four modules with five units in each is envisaged in the initial phase of the training. These Modules will be
Module 1- Knowing God.
Attempting to understand God ‘a little better’ this module will focus on the Lord’s prayer. The first unit will look at “Our Father in Heaven”, second at “Your Kingdom Come”, third at “Give us this day our daily bread”, fourth at “Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” and the final one at “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. The Lord’s prayer will be seen as the focal point for a new exodus- an exodus of liberation towards justice and truth.
Module 2- Growing in Faith
This module would seek to answer the question- Who is this Jesus you talk about every day. Starting from Resurrection the story of Jesus would be unfurled backwards looking into the life, ministry, crucifixion, teachings and the impact of his work. This would be a good opportunity look at the liturgies of worship and sacraments to deeply seek the essence of what we proclaim as aspects of our faith.
Module 3- Building Communities
The third module will be focussed on community building. The Holy Spirit as the builder of communities, the Bible as the basis of communities and the Church- the Eucharistic community- as the manifestation of community would be probed. The classic example of community- the Holy Trinity will be closely looked at and phrases from the common liturgies that manifest the various shades of meaning of community will be looked at.
Module 4- Living Beyond Ourselves
The beauty of Christian Life is that its lives out for the others. The key themes that this module will look at will include Creation Care, Racial Justice and Justice to the people in the edges, nuances of Ecumenism and its possibilities, vocation in the church and the adventures it has in store to live out for others, inter faith relations and the potential of faith communities understanding the essence of being neighbours together and the importance of affirming space in the public square engaging in the dynamics of state and polity.
The Invitation to join the Journey
I would urge the congregation to join in this journey for the following reasons
- We need to constantly engage in the God-talk and faith-discourses being able to connect to the scientific temper of our new generations and this require constant strengthening of our faith understanding.
- We need to optimise the possibilities opened up by the Pandemic in offering us opportunities to constantly be students and never be satisfied at the intellectual or spiritual levels we are in. We need to keep on learning and keep on growing
- We need to appreciate the possibilities of the diversities of the diocese. When people from over 300 communities across Europe and beyond come together the dynamics in itself is a great learning curve.
- We need to realise that much more can be done together for the sake of others and for the assurance of fullness of life for all,
- We need to make visible the kindom of God which is justice and truth being manifest in peace for ALL and these opportunities of being equipped helps us shed our lethargy, appreciate the urgency and will challenge us to launch out the lighten the corners we are in.
What will it profit us if we gain the whole world but lose ourselves? (Luke 9:25). Let us therefore continue to seek to understand what it means when Christ says- If you want to be my followers, deny yourself, take up your cross daily and FOLLOW ME.
Let us strive to be better disciples
Chaplain, Anglican Church of Freiburg
November 1, 2022