Academy for Faith and Life

Welcome to the Academy for Faith and Life, an anchor component of Fourth Presbyterian Church’s adult education program. Through this program we provide short-term and ongoing education for our members, friends of the church, and the wider community. All programming is currently offered virtually via Zoom.

The Adult Education Committee is committed to offering learning opportunities that invite participants to engage in a range of study options. You will find biblical and theological offerings for those who have years of prolonged study as well as for those who know little about Christian theology or the Bible. Some of the courses integrate issues of social and ethical importance with Christian principles and values. There are classes on spiritual development and practice and others that consider arts and culture. No matter your particular interests, we trust the Academy’s offerings will provide opportunities for growth and Christian community.

Look below for more information about this season's Academy for Faith and Life opportunities!

 

Online Adult Education Opportunities

Fall 2022 Class Offerings

First Tuesday Book Club

Zoom Bible Studies

Top Ten Bible Podcast

Adult Education Video Archive


Newsletter
Course Recommendations and Proposals

Contact Us | Child Care

 

Housing Insecurity: Advocacy Design Team

   Sundays, November 6, 13, 20, and 27
   11:15 a.m.

   Register online here

The Fourth Church Community Engagement Working Group, the Chicago Lights Board Strategy Committee, and the World Mission and Social Justice Advocacy Committee have collaborated to design this November series. This class will build on our partnership with Habitat for Humanity and lessons learned in June small discussions on the topic.


Welcoming the Stranger

with Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor

   Sundays, December 4, 11, and 18
   11:15 a.m.
   
Register online here

In light of the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, this course will cultivate appreciation of interfaith relationships; understanding of the politically and culturally complex history of immigration in the United States and Chicago; and awareness of opportunities to serve immigrants and refugees in our community.

Back to top


First Tuesday Book Club

This monthly book discussion is dedicated to examining the ethical and social issues facing Christians today. This is not just a book club; it is a forum for thinking Christians and others to wrestle with the complexities of living as faithful people in today's confusing world. To watch previous First Tuesday Book Club discussions, click here.

Back to top


Adult Education Video Archive

We encourage you to explore—or revisit, if you already attended the classes—the videos from the courses we offered earlier this year!

Ezekiel: Where Is Home in Exile?

Exploring “The Luminous Web”

Earth-Keeping as a Spiritual Practice

Path of Discipleship: A Lenten Series

Israel and Palestine: How We Talk about the Conflict

The Book of Job and the Invention of Faith

Presbyterian Witness: A Brief Statement of Faith

The 1619 Project

Architecture of Fourth Church

God in the Modern Wing

Genesis Bible Study

Discerning Vocation

Michigan Avenue Forum: Is the Church a Light in the City

David: Shepherd, Warrior, Monarch

Presbyterian Witness, Part One: The Apostles’ Creed

Understanding Gender Identity as a Church Community

Paradigm Shift: An Artist’s Story

Women in the Book of Judges

The Great Divide: Inequity within Chicago Public Schools

Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions

On Restoring God’s Beloved Community

Pandemics, Biblical Reflections, and a Christian Call to Action

His Truth Is Marching On: The Life of John Lewis

Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet

Foundations of Faith: A Year with the Bible

 

Ezekiel: Where Is Home in Exile?
with Jina Kang, McCormick Seminary

In this class we explore the book of Ezekiel through the lens of migration. As a part of a community longing for home while far away from home, we will be attentive to how Ezekiel gives expression to the loss of home and hope for home, and how he reimagines a sense of belonging. Set in a time of uncertainty and crisis, the prophet’s voice in the book of Ezekiel prompts and empathetic response to both ancient and contemporary experiences of exile.

To watch class sessions from "Ezekiel: Where Is Home in Exile?," check back here soon.

 

Exploring The Luminous Web

In her book The Luminous Web, Barbara Brown Taylor explores the dialogue between science and faith, describing her journey as a preacher learning what the insights of quantum physics, biology, and chaos theory can teach a person of faith. This class led by Lucy Forster-Smith and Jim Ford, discussed and expanded on these topics, including why scientists sound like poets and why physicists use the language of imagination, ambiguity, and mystery also found in scripture.

To watch class sessions from “Exploring The Luminous Web,” click here.


Earth-Keeping as a Spiritual Practice

This class, led by Amy Pagliarella, explored what it looks like when sustainable living is valued as a spiritual practice.

To watch class sessions from “Earth-Keeping as a Spirtual Practice,” click here.


Path of Discipleship: A Lenten Series

This year’s six-part series, led by Nanette Sawyer and Joe Morrow, centered around the book Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel by Frances Taylor Gench.

To watch the Path of Discipleship video sessions, click here.

 

Israel and Palestine: How We Talk about the Conflict

This class, led by Nanette Sawyer, examined the basic history of the region; the meaning and importance of homeland for Jews and Palestinians (Muslim and Christian); competing claims of sovereignty; the lenses through which we see and interpret the conflict; brief history of PC(USA) statements on the region; how the words we use affect how we are heard; and how our faith calls us to act.

To watch class sessions from “Israel and Palestine,” click here.


The Book of Job and the Invention of Faith

This course, led by Adam Rose, explored how the Book of Job transforms the Hebrew Bible’s concept of God (from a large-but-finite and explicable deity to an infinite and fundamentally inexplicable one) and therefore, the proper behavior of both humans and God in the relationship they share and the possibility of a covenant between them.

To watch the three sessions of “The Book of Job,” click here.

 

Presbyterian Witness: A Brief Statement of Faith

This class—led by Jeffrey Doane—considered A Brief Statement of Faith, examining what makes this statement both universal for Christians and specific to the Reformed tradition and how it serves us as believers, children of God, and people in the modern world.

To watch the three sessions of “A Brief Statement of Faith,” click here.


The 1619 Project

From a church- and Chicago-based perspective, this course examined the 1619 Project, an acclaimed New York Times series on slavery’s continuing legacy of injustice and inequality. Topics included the history of slavery, African religious and cultural practices brought to America, the history of the Great Migration to Chicago, the 1919 Chicago race riot, and present-day struggles of America’s and Chicago’s Black community.

To watch this class on “The 1619 Project,” click here.

 

Architecture of Fourth Church

In commemoration of the church’s 150th anniversary, we will examine the many wonderful aspects of our physical environment at Michigan Avenue and Chestnut Street. Don Allerton, who has led tours of the church for many years, will explain the architectural aspects of Fourth Church’s present building and, in the second class, take attendees on a tour of the sanctuary and public spaces. Come learn the many secrets of our lovely building!

To watch “Architecture of Fourth Church,” click here.


God in the Modern Wing: The Book

One of our most popular classes in recent years, “God in the Modern Wing,” explored spiritual and artistic expression in the work of outstanding modern abstract artists. Extending and heightening this conversation, a collection of essays on the topic was recently released. The collection’s co-editor Walter Hansen discusses the work with us.

To watch “God in the Modern Wing: The Book,” click here.

 

Genesis Bible Study

Led by Lucy Forster-Smith and Tom Forster-Smith, this Bible study examined themes and events in Genesis.

To watch all sessions of the Genesis Bible Study, click here.


Discerning Vocation

This three-week course led by Lois Snavely looks at how to discern our vocational calling in a secular workplace, what unique “ministerial” challenges we may face at work, and how to bring the church out into the world in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

Video to come

 

David: Shepherd, Warrior, Monarch

This open and lively discussion of the life of the Old Testament figure David and his importance for our faith is led by Pastor Emeritus John M. Buchanan and Tom Dozeman of United Theological Seminary.

To watch the three sessions of “David: Shepherd, Warrior, Monarch,” click here.

Presbyterian Witness, Part One: The Apostles’ Creed

While many can recite statements of faith by memory or by rote, the true import of those statements and their place in the history of faith is a fascinating study.

This class explores one of the earliest, the Apostles’ Creed, along with its history, its language, and its importance for what we believe.

To watch “Presbyterian Witness, Part One: The Apostles’ Creed,” click here.

 

Understanding Gender Identity as a Church Community

As a loving and compassionate church community, we are called to understand, engage with, and minister to all, even when circumstances are confusing or break with traditional religious teachings and customs. Led by Community Outreach staff from Lurie Children’s Hospital, this course explores definitions and perspectives on gender identity and fosters understanding, so that all can feel at home at Fourth Church.

To watch the first session of this class, click here; for the second session click here; for the third session click here.

 

Paradigm Shift: An Artist’s Story

In a one-on-one interview with Cynthia Johnson, Gerald Griffin—a prolific painter, sculptor, and poet whose painting “The Ascension” hangs in our Commons—provided us with a social commentary on current racial identity and effects on lingering problems of racial identity. Griffin’s “Paradigm Shift" is a series based on the concept of African Americans being viewed from the historical perspective of slavery. His narrative and art is focused on shifting that paradigm, exploring the life of modern-day African Americans, who they are as American people, and how they fit into the human family.

To watch both sessions of “Paradigm Shift: An Artist's Story,” click here.

Women in the Book of Judges

We were honored to have Dr. Steed Davidson lead us in an exploration of “Women in the Book of Judges.” Dr. Davidson is Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs at McCormick Theological Seminary, where he is also Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. An ordained elder within the United Methodist Church, he is the author of Empire and Exile: Postcolonial Readings of Selected Texts of the Book of Jeremiah, as well as Writing/Reading the Bible in Postcolonial Perspective. He also serves on the editorial boards of Biblical Interpretation and Black Theology: An International Journal.

To watch all five sessions of “Women in the Book of Judges,” click here.

The Great Divide: Inequity within Chicago Public Schools

The average SAT score for Whitney Young High School students is 1286; for Harlan High students it is 773. Yet these youth are all part of the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. Why is there such great disparity among CPS schools? What needs to happen for all CPS students to get a high-quality education? What is our responsibility as Chicagoans and as part of the Fourth Church community?

In this series we hear from Derrick Dawson (Co-Program Coordinator, Chicago Regional Organizing Against Racism), Maurice Swinney (Chief Equity Officer, Chicago Public Schools), and Cassie Burke (Bureau Chief for the Chicago edition of Chalkbeat).

To watch recordings of all three sessions, click here.

Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions

The history many of us learned about our country and institutions—including churches—often overlooks the contributions, perspectives, and experiences of African Americans. This series highlights several aspects of history in the United States to help viewers gain a more complete picture of who and what has shaped our faith communities.

To watch “Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions,” click here.


On Restoring Gods Beloved Community: Looking for
    Guidance in Scripture

Jews and Gentiles created a uniquely inclusive community following the resurrection of Jesus. These early followers sought to live not by rules of empire but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A Holy Presence can be seen in their efforts to heal creation, working from distorted images of what it is to be human that derive from the early colonization of lands and peoples. Over time, this process led to the ongoing tenacious hold of white nationalism on religious and civic life. This series uses A Theological Commentary on the Book of Acts by Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School, to guide conversation.

To watch “On Restoring God’s Beloved Community: Looking for Guidance in Scripture,” click here.


Pandemics, Biblical Reflections, and a Christian Call to Action

Using Walter Brueggeman's Virus as a Summons of Faith as a starting point, this class examines the ways COVID-19 challenges us to reexamine and rededicate our faith. The pandemic has forced us to confront our worldly limitations and consider the unknowability of God's plans for us. As we begin building a “new normal,” the lessons we can learn must not be swept away. Rather, the upheaval has presented us with a new urgency for restoring our covenant with God through prayer and service.

To watch “Pandemics, Biblical Reflections, and a Christian Call to Action,” click here.


His Truth Is Marching On: The Life of John Lewis

The life of the late civil rights pioneer and United States Representative John Lewis is the subject of a recent biography by Jon Meacham, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope. Meacham's book served as the basis of this class, which explored Lewis's struggles during the 1960s, his later political life, and his faith in the American system to overcome its past problems and affirm the worth and rights of all its citizens.

To watch “His Truth Is Marching On: The Life of John Lewis,” click here.


Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet

Through scriptural study and discussion, this class examines the persistent mercy of God in the comic and tragic story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet.

To watch “Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet,” click here.


Foundations of Faith: A Year with the Bible

This series, led by Fourth Church clergy, gives viewers the opportunity to explore the biblical narrative of our Jewish and Christian heritage, focusing on passages that chronicle this faith journey. Each session considers a passage in its historical setting and addresses how the passage is relevant to the contemporary world. Each session is self-contained, so watch as many sessions as you like, or the whole series!

Past Foundations of Faith Classes

“Knowing God, Loving God, Serving God”
with David Handley

October 4, 2020
To watch a recording of this class, click here.

“Varying Voices of the Prophets: Cries for Justice, Lamentation, and Consolation” with Jeffrey Doane
October 11 and 25, 2020
To watch recordings of this two-week class, click here.

“From Pentecost to Constantine: How the Early Church Grew” with Matt Helms
November 1, 8, and 15, 2020
To watch recordings of this three-week class, click here.

“Scriptural Journeys: The Enduring Power of Migrations in the Bible” with Joe Morrow
November 22, December 6 and 13, 2020
To watch recordings of this class, click here.

“End Times: A New Look” with Lucy Forster-Smith
January 31, February 7 and 14, 2021
To watch recordings of this class, click here.

“Love Letters: 1, 2, 3 John” with Rocky Supinger
April 11, 18, and 25, 2021
To watch recordings of this class, click here.

“The Bible as a Weapon: Disarming the Clobber Passages” with Nanette Sawyer
May 2, 9, and 16, 2021
To watch recordings of this class, click here.

For “Foundations of Faith: A Year with the Bible” classes from 2019, click here.

Back to top


Zoom Bible Studies

  • Horizons Women's Bible Study, based on the guide from Horizons magazine, meets on Zoom at 12:00 noon on second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
  • Men's Bible Study meets on Zoom every Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m.

For more information about joining either of these studies, contact Simon Crow.


Academy Newsletter

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

Back to top


Course Recommendations and Proposals

Suggestions for future course offerings can be submitted to the Academy office or dropped off at the church reception desk.

Please use this Recommendation Form if you have an idea for a class or speaker; use this Proposal Form if you would like to submit a class of your own for consideration.

Back to top


Staff and Contact Information

Staff
    Lucy Forster-Smith
    Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education
    lforster-smith@fourthchurch.org
    312.573.3364

 

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

—please contact the Academy office.

Back to top

View the Academy for Faith and Life calendar here.