Academy for Faith and Life

The Academy for Faith and Life provides short-term and ongoing adult education for the members and friends of Fourth Presbyterian Church and for the larger community. Its mission is to draw participants into the many realms of God’s activity, emphasizing the intersection of faith and life. All persons are welcome to participate in Academy courses, and all meeting rooms are wheelchair accessible.

View the Academy for Faith and Life calendar here.

Classes Beginning September 18 | Class Beginning September 19
Class Beginning October 9 | Class Beginning October 16
Classes Beginning November 6

Class Beginning December 4
| Class Offered December 11
Book Studies | Michigan Avenue Forum | Author Series | Bible Studies
Newsletter | Contact Us | Child Care


Jeremiah and Discipleship with Jeffrey Stackert

9:30 a.m. in Room 5F • Sundays, September 18–October 9 (4 weeks)

The prophecy of Jeremiah responds to a world undergoing fundamental changes. Offering a religious response to this tumult of current events, it underscores the importance of ethics precisely in moments of uncertainty. Across four weeks, we will delve deeply into several Jeremiah texts, situating them historically and culturally in order to better grasp how these ancient texts can be understood in the contemporary world. This is a great opportunity to learn biblical perspectives on what are at once ancient and present-day issues!

Jeffrey Stackert is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the composition of the Pentateuch, ancient Near Eastern prophecy, cultic texts, and ancient Near Eastern law. His most recent book is A Prophet Like Moses: Prophecy, Law, and Israelite Religion.


Charisma in One Week with Tom Payne

11:00 a.m. in Room 5G • Sundays, September 18–October 9 (4 weeks)

Charisma is a gift amplifier—e.g., it helps leaders lead better. We’ll learn how it can be acquired by virtually anyone in one week.

Tom Payne is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church and serves on the Adult Education Ministry Team. A successful corporate and leadership consultant, Tom is a lifelong student of communications and storytelling who is fascinated by how stories help us connect more deeply to ourselves, our communities, and God’s Word.


The Gospel of Luke with Judith Watt

5:30–6:45 p.m. in the Page Smith Room • Mondays, September 19 and 26, October 3 and 17, November 7 and 14 (6 weeks)

Join us as Associate Pastor Judy Watt leads us through the third Gospel, Luke. Each of the six sessions of this class will include presentation of information by Judy, oral reading of the text itself, and plenty of time for questions as we make applications of the text to our current lives. By the time the class is over, the class will have read the entire Gospel aloud.

This is a class for people of all levels of exposure to the Bible—including none whatsoever. Bring your Bibles (any version) and curious minds!

Judith L. Watt is Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care at Fourth Presbyterian Church.


Using the Enneagram for Spiritual Growth with Vicky Curtiss

9:30 a.m. in Room 5G/5F • Sundays, October 9–30 (4 weeks)

The Enneagram is an ancient Sufi teaching that was revived in recent decades as a tool for spiritual growth. It identifies nine types of personalities differentiated by a particular need each seeks to fill: to be perfect, helpful, successful, refined, wise, obedient, cheerful, strong, or easy-going. These types are also distinguished by what each person seeks to avoid: anger, need, failure, ordinariness, emptiness, deviance, pain, weakness, or conflict.

A person’s efforts toward avoidance or filling the need can be driven by patterns as powerful as an addiction. The Enneagram points toward spiritual healing and freedom from compulsive patterns that are self-destructive. Discover your type and a path towards more wholeness and balance!

Resource: The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.

Vicky Curtiss is Associate Pastor for Mission at Fourth Presbyterian Church and a spiritual director.


Standing at the Wall: The Life and Legacy of Howard Thurman with Carol Allen

11:00 a.m. in Room 5G • Sundays, October 16–30 (3 weeks)

Howard Thurman, grandson of a former slave, became one of the
most influential religious leaders of the last century. By way of the book Jesus and the Disinherited, we will explore Thurman’s central question: “What good is Jesus to those whose backs are up against the wall?” We will consider how his answer can be a resource for us in our own personal and public lives when we face forces that dehumanize and when we commit to the formation of God’s “beloved community.” What then shall be the ethical guidelines by which we live?

Copies of Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited can be purchased at the Book Nook during Coffee Hour.

Carol Allen retired from the Fourth Church pastoral staff in 2005 and is currently a spiritual director in private practice.


Many Names and Images for God with Vicky Curtiss

9:30 a.m. in Room 5F • Sundays, November 6–20 (3 weeks)

There are many names and images for the Divine beyond those most familiar to us. The ways we image and talk of God both reveal and influence how we pray and relate to God. This class explores a variety of images of God found in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in our own current experiences of God’s presence in our lives.

Resources: Glory to God hymnal and other hymns, the Bible, and Fragments of Your Ancient Name by Joyce Rupp.

Vicky Curtiss is Associate Pastor for Mission at Fourth Presbyterian Church and a spiritual director.


Jesus and Socrates with Adam Rose

9:30 a.m. in Room 5G • Sundays, November 6–27 (4 weeks)

The lives and deaths of Socrates and Jesus had some remarkable parallels. Both were charismatic teachers claiming to be on divine missions. Both were executed by the ruling elites they challenged. And both were vindicated in the writings of their disciples.

This course will explore these and other parallels by reading and discussing both canonical and noncanonical defenses of the life of each. In addition to examining the teachings of each figure, we will consider how each one’s calling and legacy is portrayed in the various accounts.

Adam Rose, educated principally at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, is a teacher and scholar with more than twenty years’ experience leading award-winning Socratic Method seminars and lecturing on Western Classics (“Great Books”) to adult and undergraduate students of diverse ages and backgrounds. Adam has a special interest in the secular, nonsectarian study of the Abrahamic scriptures as literature (especially from comparative or “interfaith” perspectives) and Socratic Dialogues of all kinds. Adam currently teaches primarily at the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults.


God in the Modern Wing: Part II with Walter Hansen and visiting artist scholars

11:00 a.m in Borwell Dining Room • Sundays, November 6–20 (3 weeks)

Trip to the Art Institute of Chicago following the 11:00 a.m. class on November 20

Again this year we invite you to join us for a series of three Sunday morning lectures on the theme “God in the Modern Wing.” Hosted by Walter Hansen, a member of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), this series of lectures and conversations explores the spiritual significance of modern and contemporary art in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

November 6: David McNutt, “Andy Warhol”
November 13: Bruce Herman, “Richard Diebenkorn and Philip Guston”
November 20: Leah Samuelson, topic to be announced

G. Walter Hansen received a B.A. in Philosophy from Wheaton College and a Th.D. from the University of Toronto. He is a scholar and theologian with more than forty years of ministry experience, both in the United States and abroad. He is Professor Emeritus of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. His particular interest in the relationship between the visual arts and theology gave rise to the idea for the “God in the Modern Wing” series.
David McNutt serves as associate editor for
IVP Academic and project editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture. He received his B.A. from Pepperdine University and subsequent degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and the University of Cambridge, England. His essays and reviews have appeared in the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Religion and the Arts, Christian Scholar’s Review, Books and Culture, and elsewhere.

Bruce Herman, painter and educator, is the founding chair of the Art Department at Godon College and holds the Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts. He completed both B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees at Boston University College of Fine Arts. His artwork is featured in collections around the world and has been published in several books, journals, and popular magazines.
Leah Samuelson received her B.A. in Drawing from Wheaton College and M.A. in Urban Studies from Eastern University. With a background as varied as high-end commercial mural painting to urban arts-based intervention and education, Samuelson now focuses on transformational pedagogy, socially engaged art curriculum development, and strategies of institutional collaboration through the arts.


John Sherer and the Andrew Pipe Organ

12:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary • Sundays, November 6–27 (4 weeks)

John Sherer will take us on a journey through the vast musical abilities of our new Edith G. and Edward J. Andrew Pipe Organ. Space permitting and as physical mobility allows, groups will gather in the Sanctuary choir loft and simultaneously in the pews downstairs to hear John both play and discuss our new instrument.

John W. W. Sherer is Organist and Director of Music at Fourth Presbyterian Church


Isaiah and Discipleship with Elizabeth Hopp Peters

9:30 a.m. in Room 5F • Sundays, December 4 and 11 (2 weeks)

As an extension of the Jeremiah class led by Jeffrey Stackert in September, Elizabeth Hopp Peters will lead the class through the overarching themes and motifs of the prophet Isaiah.

During this Advent season, where is our own prophetic voice needed in today’s world? Where do we see the themes and motifs
of the book of Isaiah today?

There will be further study of Isaiah offered through the Academy for Faith and Life in January 2017 with Tom Dozeman and guest instructors.

Elizabeth Hopp-Peters is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serves as affiliate faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary.


The Music of Advent with Carl Grapentine

12:15 p.m. in Borwell Dining Room • Sunday, December 11 (1 week)

This past spring, Carl Grapentine, from 98.7/WFMT and a longtime friend of Fourth Church, lead us in an exploration of the music of Lent. This December he returns to help us take a closer look at music for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Carl Grapentine is the host of the Morning Program on WFMT/ 98.7 FM, Chicago’s Classical Fine Arts Station, weekdays from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m.
Carl first joined WFMT in 1986 after thirteen years as the morning host of the classical music station in Detroit. Carl presents pre-concert lectures for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, and several other groups. An alumnus of the University of Michigan School of Music, Carl has been the “stadium voice” of the University of Michigan Marching Band for forty-five seasons—his voice being heard on national telecasts of sixteen Rose Bowl games and numerous other bowl games. In 2006 he assumed additional duties as the game announcer at Michigan Stadium. An accomplished conductor and singer, Carl has twenty-five years of experience as a church music director. Currently he sings in the choir of Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest.



Academy for Faith and Life Book Study Groups

Join pastors and staff of Fourth Church in a monthly book study group. The books are chosen individually by the staff and are presented as a way to more deeply dive into the theological topics and conversations in our world. Books for the study groups will be available at the Book Nook during Coffee Hour.

Waking up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

Discussion led by Vicky Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission
6:30–8:00 p.m. in the Page Smith Room
Thursdays September 15 and 29 (2 weeks)

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Discussion led by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life
6:30–8:00 p.m. in the Page Smith Room
Thursdays, October 6 and 13 (2 weeks)

Race in a Post-Obama America: The Church Responds, David Maxwell, editor

Discussion led by Mark Eldred, Interim Director of Adult Education
6:30–8:00 p.m. in the Page Smith Room
Tuesdays, November 1, 15, and 22 (3 weeks)

Watch for information about our January–April 2017 books!



Bible Studies

“Faith Today”

Wednesdays • 12:00–1:00 p.m. in the Gratz Center

“Faith Today,” offered through Fourth Church’s Center for Life and Learning (CLL), is a “hybrid” Bible study: part fellowship, part practice of the ancient prayer style of lectio divina, part learning about scripture, and part prayers of the people. All bring a hunger for a greater understanding of how God’s word can inform and shape our lives.

Led by CLL Program Coordinator Susan Quaintance, this class is open to anyone on a drop-in basis, and no RSVP is required. All ages and walks of faith are welcome.

Susan Quaintance holds an M.A. in theology from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. She taught high-school theology and English for more than twenty years and has facilitated many adult days of recollection and retreats. For more information, contact Susan Quaintance at 312.981.3386.

Horizons: A Monthly Women’s Bible Study

Second Wednesday of the Month
12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. • Room 4H in the Gratz Center

Interested in taking part in a Bible study that has been field tested by women’s groups all over the country? Join a monthly women’s Bible study, offered through Women at Fourth, based on the guide from Horizons magazine.For more information and to sign up (required), contact Anne Ellis at 312.573.3369.

“Weekly Seeds” at Fourth | A Weekly Women’s Bible Study

Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • Room 5H in the Gratz Center

“Weekly Seeds” at Fourth uses a United Church of Christ lectionary-based curriculum. In a discussion-based format, participants in this study moderated by Anne Stelle review the focus Bible passage, examine the attached reflection, and share thoughts about the in-depth questions that are provided. During the weeks that the Academy for Faith and Life has a Bible class at 9:30 a.m., “Weekly Seeds” at Fourth participants join that class and then return to the Weekly Seeds series when the Academy class is finished.

Anne Stelle is a Fourth Church member with an M.Div. from McCormick Theological Seminary. She has served as a Trustee, Elder, and Deacon at
Fourth Church and is currently serving as a chaplain at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Men’s Bible Study

First and third Tuesdays of the month • 7:30 a.m. in the Loop

A Men’s Bible Study focusing on lectionary readings from the pulpit meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7:30 a.m. in the Loop. For more information or to RSVP (required), contact Anne Ellis at 312.573.3369.


Author Katherine Willis Pershey
Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity

7:00 p.m. in Anderson Hall • Friday, October 14

In her new book, Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity, Katherine Willis Pershey speaks frankly, with equal parts humor and intelligence, about the challenges and consolations of modern marriage. As she shares her own tales of bliss and blunder, temptation and deliverance, Pershey invites readers to commit once again to the joyful and difficult work of cherishing another person. For better or worse. For life.

Katherine Willis Pershey is an Associate Minister of the First Congregational Church in Western Springs. A graduate of Claremont School of Theology, she previously served as the solo pastor of a small Disciples of Christ church in southern California. She was one of the founding editorial board members of Fidelia’s Sisters, a publication of The Young Clergy Women Project, and is a member of Ink: A Creative Collective.

Ms. Pershey is a board member of and frequent contributor to the Christian Century; her review of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Pastrix, “Making Jesus Look Good,” earned the magazine an Honorable Mention for Critical Review from the Associated Church Press. She is also a regular contributor to The Art of Simple and was a storyteller for the now-archived Deeper Story website.

Her first book, Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family, was published in 2012. She has also contributed chapters to The Upper Room Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions 2014; Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels; There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days; Holy Moments and the Healing Power of Humor; and A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series.



Michigan Avenue Forum

Morality, Christian Ethics, and Political Discourse
with Clarence Page, Robin W. Lovin, Niala Boodhoo,
and Mary Schaafsma

7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary • Monday, October 24

Join journalist Clarence Page, Princeton emeritus professor Robin Lovin, and Fourth Church members Mary Schaafsma and Niala Boodhoo for a conversation about the current path of morality in our country. Where is the church’s place in a conversation of morality, ethics, and politics? As a church, where can we truly begin to seek making a difference in this world?

Our October 6–13 book study on The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion parallels the the conversations that will be had in this forum.

Niala Boodhoo, Public Radio host in Urbana, Illinois, is the Startup Host/Executive Producer for the radio show “The 21st,” a statewide news and talk show of Illinois Public Media. She’s been a journalist since 2000, having worked for the Miami Herald, Reuters in London and Washington, D.C., and the Associated Press in Miami. Ms. Boodhoo got her start in public media in 2008 at WLRN, where she launched The Miami Herald Friday Business Report. Most recently, she hosted The Afternoon Shift, a two-hour, local weekday show on WBEZ/Chicago Public Media. She also currently serves as the Asian American Journalist Association’s National Vice-President for Broadcast.

Robin W. Lovin is William H. Scheide Senior Fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) in Princeton, New Jersey, and Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics emeritus at Southern Methodist University (SMU). A resident scholar at CTI since 2012, he became a member of the SMU faculty in 1994 and served as Dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology from 1994 to 2002. Dr. Lovin’s most recent books are Christian Realism and the New Realities and An Introduction to Christian Ethics. He has also written extensively on religion and law and comparative religious ethics. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, former president of the Society of Christian Ethics, and a member of the advisory board for the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life at Oxford University.

Clarence Page, the 1989 Pulitzer Prize winner for Commentary, has been a columnist and a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board since July 1984. His column is syndicated nationally by Tribune Media Services in close to 200 papers. He has been based in Washington, D.C., since May 1991. In September 2014 his latest book, Culture Worrier: Selected Columns (1984–2014), was published by Amazon. Mr. Page was a reporter and assistant city editor for the Chicago Tribune from 1969 to 1980. He joined WBBM-TV in August 1980 as Director of the Community Affairs Department and worked as a reporter and planning editor at the station from August 1982 to July 1984. He received a lifetime achievement award in 2004 from the National Association of Black Journalists and was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 1992. His book Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity was published in 1996. He has received honorary doctorates from Ohio University, Columbia College in Chicago, Lake Forest College, and the Chicago Theological Seminary, among others.

Mary Schaafsma is currently the Executive Director of the League of
Women Voters of Illinois. She joined the staff of the League in 2009 as the project director of the League’s redistricting project and was promoted to Executive Director in the Spring of 2013. Ms. Schaafsma has devoted her career to work in public interest, advocacy, and citizen engagement organizations and has experience in developing public education and advocacy projects and campaigns, funds development and communications, and coalition building on a range of issues, including campaign finance reform and redistricting reform. Her interest in civil discourse and civic engagement stems from her view, perhaps somewhat naively but always aspirational, that those who benefit from the promises of democracy should aspire to engage, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature.” Mary has been a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church since 1985 and has served as elder, moderator of the Board of Deacons, and chaired the Mission Committee as well as several nominating committees and has ushered the 11:00 a.m. service for decades.

Academy Newsletter

To receive periodic email updates from the Academy for Faith and Life, send email addresses to

Back to top

Staff and Contact Information

Mark Eldred, Worship Coordinator and Interim Director of Adult Education (312.573.3367)

Contact Information

• general questions or requests for information,
• requests for class tapes,
• evaluative comments,
• suggestions for courses and speakers

—please contact the Academy office at (312.573.3367).

Back to top

Child Care

On Sunday mornings: Childcare for infants up to age two is available in the Nursery from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Sunday School classes for all other children are offered at both 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. from September through May. For information about Sunday School and children’s and family programs, contact Matt Helms at 312.573.3362.

On weekdays
: To arrange childcare for weekday courses or events, contact Matt Helms (312.573.3362) at least one week prior to the event.

Back to top