Karen Blackman writes: I first heard about the ‘Living Faith’ course back in 2017, at a Diocesan Vocations Day I attended at St Peter’s, Brighton. At the time I felt the course was something I might like to do but what with the demands of work and family commitments, the timing just didn’t seem right.
However, fast forward 4 years to 2021… That niggling ‘feeling’ deep inside me hadn’t gone away, but with my youngsters now happily settled at university and other commitments lessened, I took the plunge (with the all-important support of Mthr Nicol) and enrolled, beginning the course in January 2022. The course was originally going to be face-to-face but given the uncertainty Covid has brought, it switched to being online via Zoom, which is not ideal, but certainly it is workable.
Living Faith is a part-time course, developed in the Diocese of Chester, held over a period of 18 weeks in the evening and spread over three terms. It is designed to help people find and grow in the discipleship to which God is calling them by providing opportunities to explore our own gifts and skills as well as develop resources for the ministry we may already have.
The evening sessions are usually split into two halves – worship and teaching on the topic of the evening, followed by small group time which is led by an experienced mentor/group leader. This group time involves discussion, reflection, practical exercises, sharing personal experiences (in a confidential and lovingly support environment) and of course, prayer. We are expected to participate in the discussions so need to come to each session having completed around an hour’s worth of ‘linkwork’ between sessions. For this think homework – but without the chance of being told it is all wrong as we have been led to believe that there is never a wrong answer, but perhaps more accurately, differences of opinion, or theological understanding, that needs to be teased out, examined and if necessary, gently modified!!
We have been warned that “Living Faith is also a journey – one that may lead to unexpected conclusions!”. This warning I find to be rather a scary but also an exciting thought at the same time … What might God’s plan be for me and how will I know it is His plan rather than simply my desire to go in a certain direction?
We also being encouraged to consider ourselves as theologians, which sounds rather a grand description of me with my simple faith. However, if we are called to be disciples by the way we live out our lives, and we think of Theology as a process of thinking about life in the light of our faith, then all baptised Christians are Theologians – so you are too!!
Through discussion and reflection with people from different parishes (and therefore different traditions) we are learning to apply the Bible and Christian thought to discipleship in our daily lives, better preparing us to evaluate and respond to some of the challenges we could face in our society today – be that in our workplace, in our community, amongst our friends or in our family life.
As we come to the end of the first term, I can honestly say that I am very much ‘enjoying the ride’ and would recommend the course to others based on my current experience. However, I am not convinced that I’m any the wiser yet as to the ministry I’m being called to. I’m looking forward to seeing what God will reveal to me over the next few months… There will be exciting and interesting times I’m sure, as I’m encouraged out of my comfort zone ‘into deeper waters,’ confident that by placing my trust in God all will be well, for as it says in Psalm 37: 23-24, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.”(from the ESV translation).
I finish this article with a prayer (from the Church of England website) – a prayer which I feel has been guiding us as a group of students over the course of the term. Maybe it will be helpful to you too …
Almighty God of every aspect of our lives,
help us to hear clearly what you are asking of us each day,
whatever situation we find ourselves in.
You are the God who calls us to stay where we are or to move at your bidding:
to seek and speak courageously,
sharing your love,
defending the vulnerable
and bringing dignity to those who have no voice.
Help us to sense your presence,
in perseverance and in hope,
in those everyday places
so that we can be continuously renewed by your grace.