Celebrating Small Group Ministry

A Sunday Event at Dublin Street United Church, Guelph

Reading the Bible Again

by Margaret Swain

I'm relatively new to Dublin St. United. I took part in a small ministry group which met for ten sessions and was facilitated by Rev. Sue Campbell and Stan Bunston. We read Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible again for the First Time. Each week we covered one chapter. We viewed the DVD which is a companion to the book, and we worked with a Participant's Booklet that included discussion questions. One week we had an interesting re-enactment of a passage from Acts.

Rev. John Lawson preached a sermon early last fall about reading your bible. I was already doing that each day, but I was struggling with the message that was hidden in what I was reading. I thought this course might help me to better understand my bible. It completely changed the way I now read it and the interpretation I put upon it. It also exposed me to something I had not run across before, a history of what was happening at the time of the events that are depicted in the various books of the Old and New Testaments.

I have taken courses and attended lectures over the years and this was one of the best sessions I have encountered. I looked forward to each weekly meeting. I knew that was the one time during the week when things would slow down. I could wrap my brain around that day's topic, delve into it in depth and participate in a way you can't with a lecture or in a large group.

We started out with nine people, and ended with six, including Sue and Stan. There was an intimacy that developed within our small group ministry, and from that intimacy came a sense of reassurance and comfort. We became familiar with each other and developed a trust, which enabled us to express our thoughts without any fears of disapproval or rejection. During those sessions I grew to admire, respect and appreciate the members of the group and the views they brought to it.

So what did I gain from the experience of a small group ministry? Well, it was the first book I have read by Marcus Borg, but it won't be my last. I had hoped to get a better insight into my daily sessions with the bible. Did I? Oh yes! I know I have much further to go to understand its message, but I now feel I am on the right path. One of the most important things I gained from the group - and one which I hadn't anticipated - was five new friends. That, as a newcomer to a congregation, is priceless.

Small Groups

by Susan van Acker

From the time I was young I have been involved in church life. I have attended Sunday school, taught Sunday school, was an active Youth Group member, went to retreats at Five Oaks, belonged to various choirs, etc. The church community has always been important for me, so when I move to a new place I inevitably find myself searching for a church. I like the traditions, I like the music, I like the smell of churches - but to pinpoint what specifically draws me would be very hard.

When our family first moved to Winnipeg I looked for a church that would be a good fit for us. On my first Sunday at Fort Garry United the minister talked about a small group that was starting. It would meet every week for 34 weeks to completely read the bible. I had no real interest in reading the bible but I was new to the community; I wanted to make new friends, so I signed up.

When I walked into our first meeting I thought I had made a mistake. With the exception of one couple in their mid-50s everyone else in the room was a senior. I was 29. How could I have anything in common with these people? I was near to the beginning of my career, I had a baby at home. They had grandchildren. I knew very little about the bible. Surely they were all experts!

Our group, known as Disciple, were 12 strong including our 2 facilitators. We didn't actually read the bible cover to cover but we did read over 70% of it (if we did our homework). What I came to realize over the next 34 weeks was that Disciple wasn't about reading the whole bible. Also, it didn't matter what our ages were. We used the scripture readings each week as a source of reflection and a springboard for discussion. We all brought pieces of ourselves to the table and came away richer for the experience.

In all of my years as a member of the United Church I had never experienced anything like this. This was a new kind of community. This was spiritual community. We talked freely, argued, and discussed our beliefs. We acknowledged that sometimes we couldn't make up our minds about a given issue. This is stuff that rarely happens at coffee time on Sunday morning. It was intentional and often unpredictable.

Small group ministry expanded my spirituality in ways that no other ministry could have and it built for me a community that I would not have otherwise had (and may not have typically sought), but a community I needed and am thankful for.

Kerygma Study Group

by Joyce Madsen

The story I want to share goes back to 1974. I had just come back to Edmonton as a single parent with three kids in tow. They needed to get to church and develop some understanding of what Christianity was all about. I did not know what that would mean for me. We went to Millwoods United Church. Millwoods was brand new and they had just called Rev. Bill Beach to be their minister.

Bill recognized that it took all kinds of leaders to create a foundation upon which to build a congregation. He established a Kerygma class. A group of us began to meet every Monday night, and we met for three years. There were nine of us that carried it through, and it was for me a life-changing experience.

Millwoods United did not have a church building at that time, so we met in homes. We shared what was happening in our lives each week, and had a time of learning. That began what has become a number of long term relationships. I still consider Pat Bourque one of my good friends. She went on to become a staff person for Edmonton Presbytery, and now for the Conference. Rob and Jennifer McPhee had two little girls like me. In that group we shared a lot of life, including marriages that were breaking up and celebrations.

I went on from being in the Kerygma group to chairing a congregation. Bill mentored me into taking courses. Then I met Clair Woodbury which led to researching church development and now consulting. It has all been an opportunity to learn and grow in a way I would never in my wildest dreams would have thought was possible.

That Kergyma group was about loving and sharing and growing. I think that is what Jesus had in mind when he trained the disciples and sent them out. Being in a small group is an opportunity I would encourage everyone to take advantage of.

Congregational News May 2008 Vol. 14 No. 5

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