During the month of June, the ministries of the Office of Formation for Discipleship are focused on adult faith formation and maturing adults. One of the most meaningful forms of faith formation for adults of all ages is the study of sacred Scripture. Our Lady Queen of the World parish in Richmond Hill hosts a Scripture study that also engages parishioners, staff and volunteers in prayer and discussion. Fr. Jojo Kachappilly George and his team share a bit about the program below.
1. There are many ways to foster adult faith formation. Why did you begin a Bible study series at your parish?
The Bible study ministry at the parish began as a weekly program to discuss the upcoming Sunday’s readings. Through these gatherings, parishioners were able to prepare themselves to celebrate Sunday Mass and to be able to gather with other parishioners to exchange ideas. This initiated discussions of other events and passages in the Bible and generated curiosity to understand the Bible as a whole beyond the short passages read on Sundays. Over time, this developed interest from the participants to explore a formal Bible study. The ministry currently focuses on prayer and Scripture.
2. What is the format of your parish Bible study?
Our Bible study programs are virtual sessions for participants. Currently they include opening and closing prayer with communal singing, home preparation by the individual, a video presentation, small group discussion and visio divina (reflection and praying with sacred art). The study started pre-pandemic and grew throughout the various lockdowns. The participation and feedback has been so positive that we’ll likely move forward with either virtual or a hybrid set-up when our next session starts.
3. What are the benefits of this format, as opposed to studying the Bible at home solo?
We evaluated our Bible studies by asking participants to give us feedback on what they liked and did not like. Overwhelmingly, people enjoyed the small-group discussion. In the small groups, for example, some had been to the Holy Land, and were able to share enthusiasm about Capernaum and other holy places, Judaean Desert, etc.
The program also builds leadership in ministry. We currently have nine leaders who facilitate small group discussion and prayer. The small-group discussion leaders rotate leadership in their small discussion groups so that participants can experience their different gifts. Leaders engage in reflective practice at the conclusion of each session and nurture one another in their catechetical ministries.
Our courses and our facilitators incorporate this into all our sessions. Our Bible studies can focus on particular books of the Bible such as Philippians or explore particular themes such as: “Jesus: The Way, the Truth and the Life.” Every study is focused on the ongoing conversion of participants and the parish community to help us grow intellectually, spiritually and morally. The small group discussions are particularly important in this area. Adults often learn best through conversation. These directed discussions are particularly fruitful for faith development.
4. How does Bible study help to reinvigorate one’s faith and impact our lives?
Our programs and approach have not been focused solely on the knowledge and understanding of Scripture but also on the application of what we learn in our lives. Essentially, our approach is to find Christ in Scripture (the primary purpose of Scripture study) and then bring Christ to others by how we live our lives and interact with those we encounter. For example, the last session was about looking at how we no longer live in a society that makes Sunday sacred. How can we, as a group, make Sunday more a day of joy and rest? With this approach we have grown from eight participants to around 50.
5. Is there a pre-requisite for joining a Bible study group?
The are no pre-requisites. Bring yourself, a Bible and your time – everyone is welcome! Our next study will be on the Book of Psalms to begin in September 2022.