Adult Faith Formation

What is a Matthew 25 Congregation?”
Sundays, May 1, 8, 15 & 22 – In-person class

This class will not be available for online viewing.

This past January our church Session approved a plan to become a “Matthew 25” church. What does this mean? What are the implications? These questions will be explored during a four-part faith formation series following worship on May 1, 8, 15 and 22. The series will be led by our Matthew 25 exploratory task force — Brian Case, Cindy Dugan, Cinda Gorman, Jeff Ritter and Tedd Roos.

In the past two years, hundreds of PCUSA congregations have made the same decision. Simply stated, a Matthew 25 congregation is one that prioritizes mission and outreach ministries based on a parable of Jesus located in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The parable was a means for Jesus to explain to the people of his day what a life dedicated to the good purposes of God looks like. What pleases God? What do kindness and generosity look like? The story includes a fictitious king standing before a crowd of people thanking and praising and “rewarding” some of his subjects because they “fed him, clothed him, cared for him, and visited him in prison…” The people are perplexed because they had never done any of those things for their king. The king explains that as far as he was concerned, when they had cared for “one of the least of his brothers and sisters,” it was as if they had cared for him. Jesus’ point is that the people should not be pitied but seen as people who are deeply loved by God. Caring for people in need is an act of loving service that pleases God and recognizes and honors the image of God in all people.

The tenets of Matthew 25 are also embedded in the confessional documents of our denomination. For example, the Confession of 1967 condemns the evil of systemic poverty. The Confession of Belhar challenges us to confront racism in church and society. The Brief Statement of Faith imagines congregations fully alive in the glory of God. Thus, Matthew 25 calls us to address poverty and oppression, racism and congregational vitality.

Jeff Ritter, Brian Case, Tedd Roos and Cindy Dugan will share their personal testimonies and reasons for being involved in the Matthew 25 concept and the many possibilities for our church to be engaged in these issues. The task force encourages us to write our own faith statements for why we are committed to the Matthew 25 vision. There will be time during each session to share statements.

Caring for Neighbors in Need”
Sundays, March 6, 13, 20 and 27 – In-person class

As we begin our journey as a “Matthew 25 Church,” we will explore Jesus’ command to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39) and to see him in people who are hungry, inadequately clothed and housed, imprisoned, and unwell in mind, body or spirit (Matthew 25). The four-part series will be held on Sundays, March 6, 13, 20 and 27 in Wright Chapel at 11:20 a.m.

Four people have accepted our invitation to broaden our minds and spirits. The Rev. Dr. Cinda Gorman, a member of our Matthew 25 Taskforce, will begin on March 6 with a discussion of the biblical mandate to care for others. On March 13, Patty Napolitano, MSW, will speak on the growing problem of homelessness and how congregations can help. Graham Bell will be present on Sunday, March 20 to share his experiences of working with Afghan refugees and immigrants and offer ideas for congregations to be involved. On March 27, Kathy Hartzell, an Elder at Rocky River Church and recent seminary graduate, will share her jail chaplaincy experience in Pittsburgh.

From Eros to Agape: Søren Kierkegaard’s The Work of Love “
Sundays, February 13, 20 & 27 – In-person discussion

What is love? It’s not all Valentines and chocolates. Love is indescribable, yet many philosophers and theologians have attempted to capture its essence. In his book Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and father of existentialism, explores Agape, the Christian concept of unconditional love, Eros, preferential love, and phileo, love given to friends and family. Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher, but he was also a theologian, poet, social critic and religious author. His theological work often deals with Christian love. He compares and contrasts the infinite differences in the quality of mankind vs. that of God and the individual’s subjective relationship to Jesus through faith. Several biblical aspects of spiritual love are examined in relation to erotic love and friendship and moves from primal erotism to spiritual ecstasy. This study contemplates the unfathomable qualities of love, since “God is love.” The writing is also concerned with how love manifests itself in Christian life. Though he agrees with Luther that works do not earn us salvation, he proposes that works, grounded in love, are a necessary part of Christianity. A study of these three types of love will be led by Aliyah Kennedy on LPC’s YouTube channel for three weeks in February. Opportunity for discussion will take place in the chapel after worship on February 13, 20 and 27.

Faith and Action: A Very Brief but Incredibly Interesting Look at Christian Worship”
Sundays, December 5, 12 & 19 – In-person class

LPC Pastor Jim Butler will lead a three-part series looking at public worship as a primary venue for forming faith that inspires action. The series begins on Sunday, December 5 with the story of the Magi who traveled a great distance bearing expensive gifts to worship the baby Jesus after they “observed his star in the east…” The series continues on Sunday, December 12 with a brief look at the origins of Christian worship as it emerged from Jewish synagogues. The series concludes on Sunday, December 19 with a fascinating look at the seemingly endless variety of Christian worship from Appalachian snake handlers, Pentecostals, the sacramentally focused traditions, to our own Reformed styles. Adult Faith Formation convenes at 11:15 a.m. in Wright Chapel following the worship service.

Faith and Action: God’s Word/God’s Will
Sundays, November 7, 14, 21 & 28 – In-person class

This year’s Faith and Action theme continues as LPC Parish Associate, the Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman, presents a four-part series, beginning November 7, that will help motivate participants to read the church’s ancient sacred library — The Bible — not just for intellectual curiosity, but to allow the scriptures to motivate us into actions of kindness and compassion, generosity and justice. We study the scriptures, but we must also allow them to speak and direct us into faithfully living — faith and action. The series will be both Bible study and discipleship study. Wherever you are on your journey, this series will challenge you to be “a good steward (manager) of God’s manifold grace” (I Peter 4:10). Adult Faith Formation convenes in Wright Chapel at 11:15 a.m. each Sunday. Come learn and then go forth to do! All are welcome.

Faith and Action: How to Love All as God’s Beloved Children”
Sundays, October 10, 17, 24 & 31 – In-person class

Our 2021 Faith Formation theme of “Faith and Action” continues with a four-part series led by Dr. Sheryl Buckley focused on how we can actively demonstrate the love of Christ to everyone, even those who might consider us an enemy.

See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur is an extraordinary work we will explore for four Sundays beginning October 10. She is a third generation American who is a Sikh and whose life has led her to conclude that the strongest force for redeeming the world is love. Although her religious tradition is not Christian, her vision of what “revolutionary love” means and her potentially life-changing map for facing problems stands squarely alongside the kind of love that Jesus commanded us, his followers, to practice. The first three weeks we will explore the experiences in Kaur’s life that taught her that, as a brown girl and woman, she was inferior to white people. But they also led her to decide that the remedy to the injustices she and the Sikh community suffered was not violence but love at a revolutionary level. The manifesto aspect of her book, a statement of aims and goals, shares how, by trial and error, she developed strategies for confronting systemic injustices and building the practices she calls “revolutionary love.” In week four, we will review the suggestions she offers for learning about revolutionary love, modeling it in our lives, and practicing it in a community of like-minded people. Kaur offers a modern-day approach fully consonant with following Jesus’ commandment that we love one another as we love ourselves.

Faith and Action: The Why and How of Christian Life”
Sundays, September 19 & 26 and October 3 – In-person class

LPC’s Faith Formation Ministry is excited to announce a year-long effort to link scripture and doctrine with mission outreach and social justice.

For many Christians, “religion” is all about “believing” the right things or simply agreeing with certain doctrines that are part of their specific church tradition. Others are “doers.” They are either more comfortable feeding the hungry or housing the homeless, or more passionate about addressing injustice and social issues but are often unable to articulate any kind of scriptural or theological basis for doing so. Denominations and congregations within them tend to swing toward one of these two views.

In recent years, the gulf between these two extremes is being bridged by people like Roman Catholic theologian Richard Rohr and (formerly) evangelical Protestant leader, Brian McLaren. Both have been calling for a new model of modern Christian living based on solid, historic theology and vital, fervent action based on scriptural calls to address issues of social, racial and environmental justice. In fact, Rohr founded a center in New Mexico (The Center for Action and Contemplation) whose mission is to help the Christian Church (Protestant and Roman Catholic) to see the critical necessity for both in a modern, scientific world. We want to bring this movement to LPC!

Part 1: Welcoming All as Beloved children of God

Following worship on Sunday, September 19, LPC Pastor Jim Butler will kick off the year with a three-part series that looks at the reasons why Christians must be welcoming and hospitable to all people, and how we can practice it even to those who are not Christians or people who may be hostile to the particular tradition within Christianity we profess. One of his primary background resources will be Scott Sauls’ book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them. The series will continue Sundays, September 26 and October 3. Each session will last about 45 minutes and include time for questions and comments.

“Suitable for Adults Part II: The Women We Miss”
Sundays, May 2, 9, 16 & 23

As adults, we often look back on traditional Bible stories and assume that what we learned as children was the whole story. We glean many moral lessons from Old Testament heroes like Abraham, Elijah or Joshua, but we often forget about the important women beside these figures. Aliyah Kennedy will continue to look at popular children’s Bible stories through an adult lens for our May Faith Formation series. This four-part series will look at many well-known stories from the point of view of the women within the stories. Delve deeper into the parts women played in our faith.

“Forgive and Forget? Being Faithful to Christ in an Unfair World”
Sundays, April 18 & 25

What does forgiveness look like? Is it ever okay to forgive and not forget? Must I forgive _____!? How do I know that I am forgiven — by God or by those I have harmed? LPC Pastor Jim Butler will present a two-part video series on Sundays, April 18 and 25 that will explore the often troubling dynamics that come with undeserved harm and injury as we seek to follow the path of Jesus who taught and even commanded his followers to “forgive those who harm you” and never seek or desire vengeance or retaliation.

“Caring for the Caregiver”
Sundays, March 7, 14, 21 & 28

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers,
those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who need caregivers.”
–Former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter

Caring for a friend or loved one can be one of the greatest gifts one can give. At the same time, caring for another person can be filled with a great amount of stress and anxiety. It is not unusual for caregivers to feel exhausted in dealing with balancing a personal life with the demands of caregiving. Over time the stress of caregiving can lead to exhaustion, even burnout. The challenge for many caregivers is how to find a healthy balance in meeting the needs of caregiving and maintaining a “normal” life.

Every caregiving/care receiving relationship is unique. Days can be a mixture of joy and sorrow, ups and downs, good moments and simply bad times. Caregivers, as well as care receivers, know well the stresses, anxiety, and more serene moments that can occur on almost a daily basis.

In this four-part video series beginning Sunday, March 7 and continuing on March 14, 21 and 28, we will explore the joys and challenges of caregiving. What does it mean to be a caregiver? What are the issues, challenges and stress points? What are the emotional and spiritual issues? What are some strategies for coping in being a caregiver? These are just some of the questions we will address in our time together. If you have specific questions that you’d like addressed, please click here to contact the church and we will attempt to address these in the sessions.

The presenter for this series is Robert (Bob) J. Machovec, Jr., a retired United Methodist minister (Elder), East Ohio Conference. He retired in 2016 after 35 years of active ministry. Currently, Bob is Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator for Caring Hospice Services of Ohio. He and his wife Janet have been attending Lakewood Presbyterian for the past four years.

“Divine Light: Stained Glass and the Church”
Sundays, February 7, 14, 21 & 28

The Light of God can transform us and reveal new beauties, just as colors glow throughout the church as the light passes through its windows. Join Director of Faith Formation Aliyah Kennedy on February 7, 14, 21 and 28 for the Faith Formation series, Divine Light: Stained Glass and the Church, which will be available on the church website Sundays by 9 a.m. This series will reveal the history and process of making stained glass. We will piece together the meanings found within the windows of Lakewood Presbyterian Church and those of historical European cathedrals. In medieval churches, the Bible was brought to life through sculpture and glass. Before the common person could read or have access to the scriptures, their first encounter might have been through the images illuminated in the windows of the church. Window makers and architects drew meaning not only from the images depicted in the glass, but also in the use of the glass itself. Take time with us this February to reflect on how God’s light shines through us as we study the beautiful windows of our church.

“Jesus of Nazareth: The Essential Man, Message and Ministry”
Sundays, January 10, 17, 24 & 31

Many Christians have a sense of the church’s long and complicated path to a theology of Jesus — not what he said and did, but what the church slowly came to claim about the first century Jewish prophet. This is called Christology; it is a different sort of task than discovering what can be known about his cultural and religious background, his family and early life, his essential ethical and theological lessons, and his ministry of healing and exorcism.

LPC Pastor Jim Butler will lead a four-part series beginning Sunday, January 10, aimed at helping us gain a better sense of what many scholars call “the essential Jesus” based primarily on the four New Testament Gospels. The series will cover the cultural, political, and religious environment of first century Roman-occupied Palestine; Jesus’ family history and his religious up-bringing; the influence of John the baptizer and Jesus’ 40-day spiritual transformation in the wilderness; essential theological teachings about the kingdom of God; and his fascinating ministry of emotional and physical healing and deliverance from malevolent spiritual entities.

The series will continue on Sunday, January 17, 24 and 31. The 30-minute videos will be available by 9 a.m. and can be viewed on the LPC website by selecting “Faith Formation Videos” from the “Virtual Ministry” tab at the top of the home page.

“Still Christmas”
Sundays, December 6, 13 & 20, 2020

“The world in solemn stillness lay,  to hear the angels sing…”

Join Faith Formation Director, Aliyah Kennedy, for a three-part series on the stillness of Christmas. With the challenges facing our community, many families are not gathering as they would in a normal year. This may leave some to experience a quieter Christmas than usual. For others shut in with children, balancing online learning, work and the holidays, it might be hard to find the stillness that we seek this Christmas. Whatever the type of Christmas one may find themselves in, it can be difficult to remember that Christmas is still here. In this series, we will look at examples of stillness in the first Christmas and find ways to connect to our Savior in the quiet or the chaos. This fireside study will premiere on the church website and YouTube by 9 a.m. on December 6, 13 and 20.

“A Video Tour of LPC’s Two Organs”
Sundays, November 15 & 22, 2020

Have you ever wondered what all those buttons are at the organ keyboard, or what the pipes that make each sound look like? Learn about the inner workings of LPC’s two organs with a video tour of the pipe chambers and console with commentary and demonstrations by Dr. Ruth Draper. The series will be available for viewing on the church website on Sundays, November 15 and 22.

“When Tempers Flare: Staying Together in a Conflicted Time”
Sundays, November 1 & 8, 2020

Looking ahead to what might be a difficult month fraught with conflict, personally and collectively, the Faith Formation Ministry is planning a two-part video series in November on conflict management led by LPC pastor, Jim Butler. The series will be available for viewing on the church website on Sundays, November 1 and 8.

Besides determining who will be the President of the United States in January, the November 3 election will undoubtedly result in lots of angry people and lots of happy people. This has been a very divisive election season and the chances are good it will take months if not years for the tensions to ease and for greater unity to return to our nation. Tempers will flare. The potential for violence is real and very serious. How can we care for those who feel like they lost? What does humble rejoicing look like? How do we talk about it together in ways that foster understanding and healing? The time is right to reflect on how we can better manage conflicts and disagreements and agree to “stay together” even though we passionately disagree.

Pastor Butler will approach this from the perspective of Christian faith using the example of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostle Paul in his New Testament letters to conflicted congregations. He will also introduce a very helpful resource adopted by the 204th (1992) General Assembly, “Seeking to be Faithful Together: Guidelines for Presbyterians During Times of Disagreement.”

“Fall in Love with Paul: A Second Look at the Man and His Theology”
Sundays, October 4, 11, 18 & 25, 2020

There are lots of earnest Christians who love Jesus but would not want to even have a beer with Paul. He seems sort of hostile. Did he really think so badly of women? Why does he sound so arrogant? Did he really discount his Jewish heritage and teach that those who don’t agree with his theology are eternally lost? Did he really think Jewish traditions and practices were “rubbish”? Did he actually teach that God’s grace was bestowed only on individuals who “accept Jesus” and believe all the right things about him? What happened to him on the Damascus Road? Why do so many of his letters fill up the New Testament?

LPC Pastor Jim Butler wants to share his renewed passion for Paul, which he gained from reading Bishop N. T. Wright’s books on Paul’s theology of justification. Wright is convinced Paul’s theology of “covenant grace” has been misinterpreted in order to back up a lot of popular evangelical theology which insists individuals must “accept Jesus” first before God’s grace is poured out upon them; otherwise they will be condemned to eternal judgment at the moment of death. Sound harsh? It is what the evangelicals preach. Wright says Paul was a Jew and that he thought in terms of covenant group theology, not the individualist theology of western evangelicals. It puts Paul in a different light! It makes God’s grace even more of an undeserved and unearnable gift.

“Suitable for Adults: A Grown-up Look at Children’s Bible Stories”
Sundays, September 13, 20 & 27, 2020

Most of us are familiar with the classic Bible stories of Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark. We may remember the cheery pairs of animals waddling up to the great ship from murals in the nursery or our days in Sunday school. However, how often do we read these stories as adults? LPC Faith Formation Director Aliyah Kennedy has prepared a three-part video series looking at some of our favorite Bible stories that might not be as child friendly as we remember.

When most people look back on the classic stories of the Bible (particularly with children’s stories), we tend to see them through a cheery filter of heroes and miracle workers — Jonah prayerfully content in the belly of a smiling whale or Isaac happily oblivious to the plans of his father as they descend the mountaintop. As we tell these stories to children, we manage to instill meaning while also perpetuating the idealized image of saints and Biblical perfection. As adults, we can find deeper meaning by removing the “PG” rating and getting back to the original director’s version.

“The Humor of Jesus”
Sundays, August 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30, 2020

LPC Parish Associate Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman will lead a five-part video series on “The Humor of Jesus.” Jesus taught with stories, which were often funny, even hilarious, to his audiences. Back then. Right now. Through humor, His illustrations, puns and witticisms, He held their attention, made His point and proved His excellence as a communicator. Frankly, He ticked some people off with His Godly “stand-up.”  He also revealed with His empathy and insights the true, full humanity of the Incarnation. Yes, laugh with our Lord at His wonderful sharing about the human condition we find ourselves so immersed in. 

“The Letter of James: A Bishop Tries to Flatten a Curve”
Sundays, July 5, 12, 19 & 26, 2020

LPC Pastor Jim Butler has prepared a four-part video series on the New Testament book, The Letter of James. The letter has been the source of much controversy throughout Christian history, beginning with the identity of its author. The majority of Protestant scholars are open to the traditional position that it was written by Jesus’ brother, James, who was the first bishop (pastor) of Jerusalem. Roman Catholic scholars disagree because of their doctrine of the “perpetual virginity of Mary,” which argues that the siblings of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels were the offspring of Joseph from another marriage.

Controversy has centered on James’ theological statements that “true religion” is more about practice (caring for widows and orphans) than correct belief systems. James asks his readers, “What good is it, brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Faith, if it has no works, is dead.” Both Luther and Calvin championed Paul’s theology that “saving faith” (right belief?) justifies a person before God, and seriously questioned whether James’ letter, written before Paul’s ministry began, should have been included in the canon (authorized sacred library) of scripture.

The letter also includes strong moral and ethical teachings that all people are equal before God in that every person is made in God’s image. Christians should never be partial or show favoritism toward anyone but especially to the wealthy and the well-placed. James wanted to flatten the cultural curve of wealth and power that was present in the Jerusalem church. The Letter of James is timely and amazingly contemporary in that it can speak forcefully to the issues of racism, bigotry and wealth inequality in American culture.

“The Art of Sacred Image and Personal Worship”
Sundays, May 10, 17 & 24, 2020

The Faith Formation Ministry is excited to offer a three-part digital lecture surveying the use of art in personal worship. When discussing art and faith, most people might conjure the image of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling or the many beautiful stained-glass windows and altarpieces in worship spaces around the world. This series will look at art, within three distinct time periods, that was used for worshiping and connecting to God while at home. The series will be led by Aliyah Kennedy, the Director of Faith Formation and Youth Programming. While many of our members may associate her with the children and youth of our church, her degree is in Art History and she has spent many years working within Cleveland’s art community.