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, further described in the explanation of the Academy seal (see below), 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.

Spring 2015 Classes
Nature and Grace in Poetry and Prose
Pilgrimage as Spiritual Practice
Book Event for Jeanne Bishop
The Network Church
The Politics of Revelation

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“Nature and Grace
in Poetry and Prose

     Sundays, April 12–26 (3 weeks)
     9:30 a.m.
     Room 5D of the Gratz Center
     Led by Jeff Doane

“If poems touch our full humanness, can they quicken awareness and bolster respect for this ravaged resilient earth we live on?”
     — John Felstiner in 
Can Poetry Save the Earth?  

People of faith are not only confronted by daunting ecological statistics, we are lured by the opportunity to “put the grace of God behind the eyes with which we look at the world and into the hands with which we touch the world” (Joseph Sittler).

Two books will center this class: Joseph Sittler’s Evocations of Grace: Writings on Ecology, Theology, and Ethics and poet and professor John Felstiner’s Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems. We will take up examples from both works, as well as share favorite nature poems, seeking together to be transformed by the spirit of our minds.

Jeff Doane is Pastor Emeritus of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church and is an active participant at Fourth Presbyterian Church. He earned his A.M., D.Mn. at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and an A.B. at Cornell University.

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“Pilgrimage as Spiritual Practice

     Sundays, April 12–May 3 (4 weeks)
     11:00 a.m.
     Room 5E of the Gratz Center
     Led by Vicky Curtiss and Fourth Church members

For centuries, Christians have gone on pilgrimages as a spiritual practice. They have left the routines of their lives to renew their commitment to God, to pray and reflect, to journey to a holy place, and to be receptive to God’s transforming presence.

In this class, we will learn about the theology and tradition of pilgrimage and hear from Fourth Church members about their recent pilgrimage experiences.  The class will then conclude with walking the labyrinth as a form of pilgrimage. 

Vicky Curtiss serves as Associate Pastor for Mission at Fourth Presbyterian Church and is also a certified spiritual director. She will be leading this class along with several Fourth Church members who have also explored various forms of pilgrimage as spiritual practice: Marilee Hopkins, Kathi Bates, and John Dallas.

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Book Event for Jeanne Bishop 

   Tuesday, April 28
   6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Buchanan Chapel
   Reception to follow in Allison Hall

On Tuesday, April 28, author Jeanne Bishop will give a presentation on her new book, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister's Killer, a story about Ms. Bishop's path to reconciliation with the teenager who murdered her sister, Nancy, along with Nancy's husband and their unborn child. The presentation will conclude with a question-and-answer session and will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Says best-selling author John Grisham, “Change of Heart is a tragic story of senseless violence, horrific loss, and, in the end, forgiveness that is astonishing. I kept asking myself, 'As a Christian, could I be as strong and merciful as Jeanne Bishop? ' I have my doubts.”

Jeanne Bishop is a criminal defense attorney, activist and author. Since the murders of her family members, she has spoken around the U.S. and the world in support of gun violence prevention, abolition of the death penalty, forgiveness, and the role of victims in the criminal justice system. Her written work has appeared in The Huffington Post,,, The Christian Century, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She has been featured in several documentary films, including Too Flawed to Fix, Deadline and The Innocent. A graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and a recipient of its alumni award for public service, she practices law with the Office of the Cook County Public Defender.

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“The Network Church

     Sundays, May 3–17 (3 weeks)
     9:30 a.m.
     Room 5G of the Gratz Center
     Led by John Vest

A decade and a half into the twenty-first century, the twin headlines of American religion are the overall decline of Protestantism and the so-called “rise of the nones”—the developing phenomenon in which more and more people in the United States claim to have no religious affiliation. These “nones” haven’t necessarily abandoned faith in God, but they are walking away from organized religion and church institutions.

For the most part, church leaders have responded to these trends within the bounds of traditional congregational life. The church at large has failed to recognize that our most basic form of organized religious life—the congregation—is rooted in social constructs that are being eclipsed by new means of social connectionalism. Organizational, aesthetic, or even theological shifts will ultimately have limited impact on these trends, because people experience community and search for meaning in places other than weekly communal gatherings.

What if congregation-based ministry is just one socially constructed form of religiosity and not the only way of doing church? After a brief introduction to post-Christendom and the emergence of new understandings of Christianity in North America, this class will explore a new model of church life based on a network approach to ministry in which people live authentic gospel-shaped Christian lives in their native and natural social contexts. We will consider emerging experiments in new forms of church, spiritual practices in a variety of cultural spaces, and post-congregational expressions of Christian faith.

John Vest serves as Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

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“The Politics of Revelation”

     Sundays, May 3–24 (4 weeks)
     11:00 a.m.
     Room 5D of the Gratz Center
     Led by Clare Rothschild

Dystopian and post-apocalyptical subject matter are on trend in popular culture, yet of all the books of the New Testament, Revelation seems most controversial and enigmatic—even off-putting.

Up for a good challenge? Join us as we dig into this ancient and still influential Christian text. We’ll “decode” Revelation and explore the background of Christian texts in Jewish apocalypses, examining the politics and context of Christian apocalyptic texts and several modern expressions of apocalypticism—the “apocalypse now” aspect of the class series. With perspectives developed with reference to the ancient materials, we can engage more clearly and critically about the relevance of various manifestations of apocalypticism today.

Clare Rothschild, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Scripture Studies at Lewis University and an esteemed New Testament scholar and teacher. Her expert insight, energy, and enthusiasm promise a lively adventure.

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Other Opportunities

Enriching Relationships

   Sunday, April 26
   9:30 a.m. in Room 4G
   Led by Rachael L. Miller, M.A., L.P.C., N.C.C.,
      of the Repogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

This series is for partners and spouses who want to take time together to grow and deepen their relationship. Classes will cover key topics, offer practical tools, and be directly applicable to everyday life as a couple. More information is available online here.

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Faith in Focus:
   A Series for People in their Thirties and Forties
   Second Sunday of the month
   May 10
   11:00 a.m. in Room 5F

Led by local religious scholars, “Faith in Focus” uses a theological-ethical lens to bring into focus different topics for each monthly conversation. We explore multiple religious traditions from ancient to modern times. Large- and small-group formats help foster a dynamic and thoughtful exchange.

More information is available on the ThirtiesForties web page.

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Registration for Academy Classes

Please help us in our planning by preregistering for classes. You can register by

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Academy Newsletter

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

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Staff and Contact Information

Ryan Loeckel, Coordinator Adult Education and Worship (312.640.2570)

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 (312.640.2570).

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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. 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.

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