What’s your learning style: visual, auditory, or kinesetic? All three learning styles can be found in the programs currently used in the diocese. The desire to learn more about Christianity and Anglicanism continues strong, as many parishes focused on study this year during Lent and afterwards.

No single course has been adopted by all diocesan parishes. The newest course, “Living the Questions” group study, the diocesan-produced “Journey” curriculum, and the well established “Alpha” course, all have their adherents.

Living the Questions is a 12-week DVD and web-based small group study that was developed in the US. A “liberal” study course, it features often controversial John Shelby Spong, former Bishop of New Jersey, theologian Marcus Borg, historian John Dominic Crossan, feminist theologian Emilie Townes, and other noted scholars.

This spring nine parishes are using the study. Several parishes have shared their reflections. If the point of the study is to promote dialogue among the participants, and an opportunity perhaps to think “outside the box” - it seems to do that rather well. The program is appreciated by seekers who look to discover more about their faith in a non-judgmental and open forum. Sharing this discovery in a group setting helps open one’s heart and mind for personal learning - and opens new Christian friendships at a different level.

Not all participants agree with all messages presented to them, our survey found, but most involved consider it liberating to be able to speak aloud one’s thoughts (and doubts), and realize that others share some of the same thinking.

At St. Agnes, North Vancouver, many feel comfortable with the program’s approach to think of biblical stories as myth, but others are not. “What do we tell the children?” asked one parishioner. Many were concerned about “losing the baby with the bath water.”


Participants in study sessions based on the Living the Questions course at St. David’s, Delta

“I’m beginning to trust that there is room for growth and freedom in the church now,” reported a member of the group from All Saints, Mission. “Maybe I’ll stay [in the Church] this time.”

Journey was developed by Dr. Elmer Joy, former professor of New Testament studies, and completed by the Rev. Ron Wickens, rector of St. John’s, Burnaby. The curriculum was written from a distinctly Anglican perspective during Joy’s tenure as Christian Formation Coordinator for the diocese. The vision was to prepare materials that would deepen our relationship with God in Christ, our understanding of Anglican community, encourage inquiry and prepare the people of God for healthy service in the church and in the world.

“Recently new to Anglicanism, I found the ‘Journey’ sessions helpful in learning about the history, traditions and liturgical practises of the church. I also have a desire to learn much more of the Bible”, said Beverly Treherne about her Journey experience in ’04 at St. John, Port Moody.

Journey falls into five parts, each with six sessions. Its presentation approach is more traditional, maybe easier to deal with for some. The curriculum consists of a hand-out, a few pages for each session. There are no video presentations or specific social components, though the last session of unit two closes with an Agape Meal. The curriculum will be available on the diocesan website, meanwhile, hard copies can be obtained from the synod office. This study is taking place in about a dozen parishes.

Alpha, based on shared meals, video viewing, and discussion, originated at Holy Trinity Brompton, a Church of England parish in London, and is used internationally by a wide range of churches, including Roman Catholic and several Protestant denominations. It is supported by a highly visible billboard advertising campaign.

In the diocese, St. Mark’s, Ocean Park, and St. Matthias and St. Luke offered Alpha courses earlier this year in January.

St. Mark’s has been holding Alpha courses for several years, reported John Braddock, Alpha coordinator. “We are still getting people who say it is very worthwhile and they’re sorry they didn’t take it earlier.”

Besides the introductory Alpha course, St. Mark’s offers some of the advanced Alpha courses on Philippians, Isaiah, and the Sermon on the Mount, plus other studies – nine in all, Braddock said. The next introductory Alpha course will begin in September.

Thanks to the parishes that provided information about their studies: All Saints, Mission; St. Andrew’s, Pender Harbour; St. David’s, Delta; St. John’s Squamish; St. Agnes’, North Vancouver, and St. Mark’s Ocean Park, Surrey

For more information:

Alpha – John Braddock, St. Mark’s, Ocean Park, 604 535-8841, www.stmarkbc.org/Alpha.htm or go to www.alphacanada.org.

Journey – Bettina Gruver, diocesan program coordinator, 604 684 6306 ext. 226, www.vancouver.anglican.ca.

Living the Questions – Bettina Gruver, diocesan program coordinator, 604 684-6306 ext. 226, www.livingthequestions.com.