Academy for Faith and Life

The Academy for Faith and Lifeprovides 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.

Below is a listing of the opportunities you can look forward to this fall. These offerings give you a range of options that will help you engage the important questions of faith in your life and the opportunity to gather with others on their journey of faith.

This fall we will observe the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation through a variety of courses. We will explore our deep Reformed heritage and discern what challenges and excitement will greet us in this new era of Christian faith.

Come with your questions and curiosities, your confidence and your doubt. Come whether you are steeped in knowledge or new to your Christian journey. Come and explore this wild and wonderful life of faith!

Celebrating the Reformation

The Just Shall Live by Faith Alone:
Martin Luther and the World He Lived In

Sundays, October 1 and 8 at 9:30 a.m.

The Protestant Reformation: More Than Martin Luther
Sundays, October 15–29 at 11:00 a.m.

The Reformations of the Sixteenth Century: 500 Years and Counting
Sundays, November 5–19 at9:30 a.m.

Reformed and Always Reforming: Doing Church Differently
Sundays, December 3–17 at 11:00 a.m.


More Academy Opportunities

Christianity and Capitalism
Friday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m.

Apocalyptic Literature and the Apocalypse of John
Sundays, October 8–29 at 11:00 a.m.

God in the Modern Wing
Sundays, November 5–19 at 11:00 a.m.

Bible Studies | Newsletter | Contact Us | Child Care

The Just Shall Live by Faith Alone:
        Martin Luther and the World He Lived In

Sundays, October 1 and 8 (2 weeks)
9:30 a.m. in Room 5G

Led by Claudia Boatright and Laura Sterkel

Who was Martin Luther? This course will serve as an introduction to our fall celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and will help us place Luther and his radical break with the all-powerful Roman Catholic church in the context of his historic time. The cast of characters who played a role in the dramatic transformation of his faith will be introduced, a brief overview of his quarrels with Catholic dogma will be presented, and a suggestion as to how the Protestant Reformation impacted the great changes already taking place in sixteenth century Europe will conclude the class. The course includes a showing and discussion of Rick Steves’ film Luther and the Reformation, originally aired on PBS.

Claudia Boatright is a graduate of the College of Wooster with a B.A. in American history and Claremont Graduate University with an M.A. in American studies. She is a retired history teacher with thirty-six years of classroom experience, including twenty-one years as an adjunct instructor at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Claudia is a member of Fourth Church.

Laura Sterkel is a member of Fourth Church, an ordained church elder, and former co-chair of the Adult Education Committee at Fourth Church. Laura received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, where she studied art history and political science. She attended the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University. Laura is an executive coach, program organizer, and frequent speaker and facilitator. As lifelong learners, Laura and her husband, Rob, are avid travelers, with a particular interest in art, culture, and history.

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The Protestant Reformation:
        More Than Martin Luther

Sundays, October 15–29 (3 weeks)
11:00 a.m. in Room 5D

Led by David C. Nelson

The Reformation was not a single historical event but a movement sparked before Luther and continuing well after him. It also had more than theological implications; it was formed within the contexts of the politics, economics, and culture of the day. Likewise, the Reformation had a profound impact on the wider society. Join us as we take a deeper look at the persons who had a starring role in the greatest theological movement in Christianity. We’ll introduce you to some of the characters in this story—quirks and all.

     October 15: There Was Someone before Martin Luther?
     October 22: Brother Martin and Friends
     October 29: Martin Luther and John Calvin

David C. Nelson is a retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Most recently David spent twenty-three years as pastor of Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Lincolnwood, Illinois, before founding William Randolph Hearses. David is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church.

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The Reformations of the Sixteenth Century:
        500 Years and Counting

Sundays, November 5–19 (3 weeks)
9:30 a.m. in Room 5G

Led by Ken Sawyer

How best to consider the remarkable reformations of the sixteenth century? In three sessions we will pursue the liveliest questions of the Reformations, with close attention to the people, texts, and conflicts of that struggle. We will take a specific look at the Reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, exploring women and men within our Reformed tradition as an expression, extension,
and elaboration of the insights of the first generation of reform. Join us as we explore and engage the sharpest edges of the Reformations.

November 5: Reformations
What was it all about? What and why did Protestants protest?
We’ll discuss the main teachers, texts, and trajectories.

November 12: Continuing Quarrels
The Western world is still troubled by some sixteenth-century concerns. We will explore some of the Reformation controversies that remain today.

November 19: Beyond Commemoration
Five hundred years and counting: what is worth remembering and even rekindling in the Reformation way? We’ll connect the Reformations with contemporary reflection.

Ken Sawyer is Professor of Church History and Associate Dean for Student Academics at McCormick Theological Seminary. Ken received his Ph.D. in the history of Christianity from the University of Chicago Divinity School and his teaching and research focus upon Reformation topics, Anglo-American Reformed groups, Puritanism, New School and Old School Presbyterianism, as well as
issues of gender and power in the history of Christianity. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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Reformed and Always Reforming:
        Doing Church Differently

Sundays, December 3–17 (3 weeks)
11:00 a.m. in Room 5D

Led by Abbi Heimach-Snipes

As Presbyterians, we take pride in being “Reformed and Always Reforming,” but how is our beloved church reforming today?

In this three-part series, we will discuss why the church needs to keep reforming, share examples of how churches are “doing church differently” today, and engage in dialogue on what we think and feel about the changing church. We’ll even get to try out a “new” form of Bible study that involves Beyoncé (yes, Beyoncé).

Whether you have ideas for the reforming church or are scared to death
of it, we hope you join us in this three-part series!

Abbi Heimach-Snipes is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serves as Pastoral Resident at Fourth Church, where she is involved in many aspects of congregational life at Fourth Church, including leadership at Jazz at Four worship (Sundays at 4:00 p.m.) and ministry with young adults. She comes to us with experience working in the Young Adult Catalyst office at the Presbyterian Church (USA) headquarters and at Chicago-based church plant Urban Village Church.

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Christianity and Capitalism

Friday, October 6
7:00 p.m. in Buchanan Chapel

Led by Carol Moseley Braun

The first black woman elected to the United States Senate, former ambassador to New Zealand, and current small business owner, Carol Moseley Braun understands capitalism, and as a leader at her church, she has a compelling vision of capitalism and Christianity.

In her October 6 presentation, Ambassador Braun will focus on the importance of Christian values as she quotes Adam Smith, Dickens, and the pope. She notes that in every person there is a reflection of God and that we should be the change we want to see in the world—something we all should remember.

Carol Moseley Braun jokingly describes herself as a “recovering politician” who is on her fourth career. She is currently the founder and manager of Ambassador Organics, a food and beverage company specializing in certified organic coffees, teas, cocoa, and olive oil. She began her career as an Assistant United States Attorney (Northern District of Illinois, 1973–1977) and then went on to be Assistant Majority Leader in the Illinois General Assembly (1978–1988), a county executive (Recorder of Deeds, 1988–1992), a United States Senator (1992–1998), and United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa (1998–2001). She was the first woman to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, and is the only African American woman to ever be elected to the Senate. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate school classes in political science and business law. She holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois (1968) and a J.D. from the University of Chicago (1972). She has received more than two hundred awards for public service, including eleven honorary doctorates. In 2002 a new elementary school was named in her honor. The school team is called the Ambassadors.

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Apocalyptic Literature and the Apocalypse of John

Sundays, October 8–29 (4 weeks)
11:00 a.m. in Room 5E

Led by Stephen Hall

The New Testament book known as “The Revelation of John” is part of an apocalyptic tradition that predates the Gospel according to John by more than half a millennium. Using the apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament as a starting point for understanding the primary concerns of this genre and its leading features and motifs, this survey will conclude with a focus on the Apocalypse of John. One of the leading themes in apocalyptic literature was expressed in Greek centuries before the New Testament: “the latter things are like the former.” In other words, apocalyptic literature envisions the end to be like the beginning. In a way, you could say that The Apocalypse of John takes us “back to the future.”

       October 8: The prophetic books of Isaiah and Zechariah.
       October 15: Book of Daniel and 2 Esdras from the Apocrypha.
       October 22 and 29: The Apocalypse of John

Stephen Hall holds an MA in Hebrew language studies from the American Institute in Jerusalem, a Th.M. in Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is working on a Ph.D. at the Divinity School of the University
of Chicago.

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God in the Modern Wing

Sundays, November 5–19 (3 weeks)
11:00 a.m. in Borwell Dining Room

Moderated by Walter Hansen

“God in the Modern Wing” returns to Fourth Church for its third year, with new presenters and new topics.

We invite you to join us for this series of three Sunday morning lectures that will explore the spiritual significance of modern and contemporary art in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This series of presentations and conversations is being hosted in partnership with Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA).

       November 5: Steve Prince, “Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White”
       November 12: Makoto Fujimura, “Mark Rothko”
       November 19: Linda Stratford, “Jackson Pollock”

G. Walter Hansen is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Professor Emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary, and moderator of the God in the
Modern Wing sessions.

Steve Prince, a native of New Orleans, is currently Assistant Professor
of Art and Artist in Residence at Allegheny College. He received his B.F.A. from Xavier University and his M.F.A. in printmaking and sculpture from Michigan State University. An accomplished lecturer and preacher, he maintains that “we are all living epistles,” and aims to take his visual ministry to the streets, where art can serve as a bridge to help people find their way from brokenness to beauty.

Makoto Fujimura is director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary. An internationally known painter and writer, she is the author of Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life. She served as a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003 to 2009 and, in 1991, founded the International Arts Movement (IAM).

Linda Stratford, Ph.D., is a historian of art and society. Her Millstone Prize article “American Art in France Following the Liberation” was published in the Journal of the Western Society for French History. She is founding director of Asbury University’s Paris Semester program, where she teaches art history and French history, and is coauthor of ReVisioning: Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art.

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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

    Shawn Fiedler
    Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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

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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. 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.

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View the Academy for Faith and Life calendar here.