I found it really helpful to be encouraged to have faith questions,
rather than always seeing that as meaning my faith was weak because I had them.
It has made my reading of the Bible much richer and more thoughtful.
I think our leadership did an exceptional job.
Very convenient and comfortable to stay at home.
It altered the way I think about my own faith.
Knowing it was OK to have many questions and that there aren’t always answers.
Ormond Uniting Church has discerned a commitment to be a learning community. This seemed to be the natural thing for the congregation to do – with about twenty people with current and past careers in education, from early childhood educators to university professors. It has become a core focus of the church.
Rev Andrew Boyle said “Our hope is that in time we will become a faith learning Hub for the northern end of the presbytery and, by virtue of online technology, further afield. We are hoping to collaborate widely across the church in this venture. Our focus is on education for discipleship and faith formation.”
The Ormond Learning Hub had its first offerings in 2020. Using the online Uniting Learning platform, a dozen people met for “Exploring Theology from a UC Perspective”, a four module lay education course through eLM. With plenty of learning material, the group was able to pick resources that interested them.
Group meetings have taken place over Zoom, allowing people from anywhere to connect. People access online materials and do some pre-reading. The main focus of the group sessions is discussion. As the group progressed, they found more freedom to use the resources as a springboard to discuss their own faith and life questions.
Andrew said, “It is about helping people bridge the gap between their faith and their intellect. Sometimes our life story and our faith story can be running on different railway tracks. People felt that to ask questions about faith was to be a ‘doubter’.” The learning groups aim to help people explore their questions, be better informed about faith, and grow as leaders.
The organisers also seek to develop local leadership for the Hub. The programs have been led by a church member who has completed theological studies, supported by Andrew. He noted the importance of leading learning. “There has been a heavy emphasis on pastoral care in churches, and a tendency for ministers to become chaplains more than teachers.”
A new series on exploring the New Testament has just commenced. Once again it is online, with people from Ormond and other churches joining it. The text is Mark Powell’s wonderful book “Introducing the New Testament” (currently on sale from Koorong). Earlier in the year, a group took on a short video discussion series, Living the Questions “Believing in the Contemporary World”.
The Hub is developing a pattern of two short courses and one longer course during the year. The longer course currently on offer can be accessed online by people on their winter sojourns.
Ormond UC has set an annual budget for the Hub, and now charges a fee for the courses. This helps to pay the group facilitator and provides some seed funding for future courses.
“People have been stimulated and challenged in their thinking and their faith,” said Andrew. “We hope to become a regional resource. You are welcome to join us!
Look out for future Ormond Learning Hub offerings here.