“A Back Stage Look at the Christmas Characters ”
Sundays, December 4 & 11 at 11:15am – In-person class
Most everyone knows something about the main characters in the Christmas story — Mary, Joseph, and of course, the baby Jesus. On Sundays, December 4 and 11 at 11:15 a.m. in Wright Chapel, LPC Pastor Jim Butler will help us explore the lives and thoughts of the other figures sprinkled across the two Christmas stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Come and consider Gabriel, the “Archangel.” What is all this business about angels and archangels? And then there is Zachariah the Priest and his wife, Elizabeth, who welcomed a very pregnant Mary into their home while they were waiting for their own miracle baby, who grew up to be John the baptizer/prophet. Three political figures step onto the stage and one doesn’t go away until after he’s killed hundreds of young boys in his maniacal pursuit of Mary and Joseph’s son. And finally, two senior citizens make their Christmas stage debut when the infant Jesus was “presented” to the Lord in the Jerusalem Temple. Come get some fresh perspectives on this familiar annual drama that turned the world upside down.
“Allies for Justice”
Sundays in November at 11:15am – In-person class
As part of our new “three-pronged” Matthew 25 mission strategy, Lakewood Presbyterian Church has entered a partnership with the Lakewood Black Caucus (LBC) as a first step in our congregation’s commitment to stand against bigotry, especially racism and the marginalization of sexual minorities. As announced in last month’s edition of Open Door, LPC will be the fiscal sponsor of a grant to the Caucus from the Healthy Lakewood Foundation. During the last several months, we have been cultivating a warm and supportive relationship with the LBC.
We have invited the Caucus’ president, Patricia Wellborn, to lead a four-part Sunday Faith Formation series on November 6, 13, 20 and 27. The series will help broaden our understanding of the complex challenges of racism in our culture, and how we can become allies with people of color in the struggle for equity and justice. The series will also help us become more comfortable discussing race and racial issues using videos, journaling and discussion as we look at the lingering impact of historical events.
Patricia is a resident of the Westerly, and is an effective public speaker and educator. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from John Carroll University. The public is being invited to participate, and we hope to welcome some of our neighbors to LPC each Sunday.
“Opening Our Hearts to Those in Need”
Sundays in October at 11:15am – In-person class
As the weather turns cooler and long summer days turn to dark autumn evenings, let us turn our hearts and minds to those who may feel that chill a little more than others. In October, the Faith Formation Ministry invites you to learn how we can support those in poverty within our community. Four local organizations will share stories of faith and service to those who are most in need. Programs begin at 11:15 a.m. in Wright Chapel.
October 2 – Renee Brickman from The Metanoia Project will discuss her work with the un-sheltered homeless. These individuals often live under bridges, in alleyways and on park benches. The Metanoia Project focuses on building authentic relationships and trust while providing hot meals, services, showers, clothing, hygiene and trauma-informed overnight hospitality during the cold winter months.
October 9 – Trish Rooney, Executive Director of the Lakewood Community Services Center (LCSC), will discuss her experience helping individuals and families with food and housing assistance in Lakewood. LCSC was founded in 1982 by twelve Lakewood churches with the purpose of providing food assistance to Lakewood residents in need. Today, they provide food services, housing assistance, mental health services, senior services and programs for youth.
October 16 – Anthony Baratta will represent The City Mission.
October 23 – Kim Hook, LPC’s childcare provider, will discuss her work with children through the early learning program for a Health and Human Services agency in Cleveland. The early learning program is a Head Start/Early Head Start program geared to help meet the needs of low-income families in Cuyahoga County. They work to meet the children’s educational needs, but also work with the entire family to help them meet their needs. Kim believes that her life as a Christian is best served by being of service to others. She feels her faith is best shown when working to help others in big and small ways every day.
October 30 – Faith formation will be a little less academic on the final Sunday in October. The fifth Sundays of the month will become Faith in Practice Days for hands-on engagement. Please join us on this day for intergenerational mini service projects — make sanitation kits, sign a card, or join one of the activities geared toward helping the great organizations described above. Together we can live out our Matthew 25 commitment to help “the least of these.”
“When I Was Thirsty: A Matthew 25 Mission in Malawi”
Sunday, September 25, 2022 at 11:15am – In-person class
As our church begins to identify as a Matthew 25 church, the Faith Formation Ministry will begin the program year by offering a glimpse into how Matthew 25 can be lived and practiced. During the lockdown, our youth raised money for prisoners in Malawi. On September 25 we will hear news about this mission from Karen Byrne, the Commissioned Pastor (C.P.) of Concord Presbyterian Church in Centerville, Ohio, a part of the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery. This summer she spent several weeks in Malawi visiting prisoners, local church groups, and seeing the well that she helped to fund in Domasi Prison.
Malawi is a very dry and poor country. Water is scarce and rationed year-round. Prison facilities prepay for their water, which must be carried in buckets. When the quota runs out, there is no more water. Sometimes people go without for four or five days before more can be bought. Trapped behind prison walls, sometimes for lack of being able to pay for release, prisoners die from lack of basic needs. With a well, the water can flow, bringing health and well-being in many ways. A solar-powered well lasts 20 years. Karen works with the Chaplain for Malawi prisons, Rev. Stanley Chimesya, to bring extra food, water, and supplies to these desperate men, women and children. She is currently raising funds to build another well for the Zomba Prison, the largest in the region with over 2000 inmates.
Karen was the wife of a Presbyterian minister, mother of four, including our own Aliyah Kennedy, teacher for children with severe behavioral issues, and now C.P. She did not seek out the prison ministry or travel to Africa, but found herself called into God’s service. On September 25 stay after worship to hear about her mission and about how we all can follow where God leads us and see Jesus in the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, and the imprisoned, even when it seems beyond our abilities or wildest imaginations.
“Becoming a Faith Community that Cares for Neighbors”
Sunday, September 18, 2022 at 11:15am – In-person class
As LPC adopts the Matthew 25 model for mission, Pastor Jim Butler will lead a presentation and discussion about the possibilities for LPC to become more intentional about responding to the emotional and spiritual needs of our neighbors.
“What is a Matthew 25 Congregation?”
Sundays, May 1, 8, 15 & 22, 2022 – In-person class
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, 2022 – 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, 2022 – 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, 2021 – 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, 2021 – 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, 2021 – 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.