Adult Education

At Mill Woods United Church, we discuss sacred values that give meaning to our lives. Our Sunday morning gatherings provide some of that, but many of us also want other opportunities for a “lifelong learning in Love.” Below is a description of some past activities that sought to fulfill this need.

“A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency,” fall 2021

In fall 2020, Seth Klein of Vancouver BC published a book that makes comparisons between Canada’s emergency response to World War II with what is required now to respond to today’s climate emergency. A small group of us spent five evenings discuss this book and its ideas. Here is an outline of what we did:

  • October 21: 7:30-8:30 pm, Thursday: An Introductory session, based upon a 24-minute interview with Seth Kleinby CBC’s Matt Galloway on “The Current” from November 2020.
  • October 28: Part One of the book
  • November 4: Part Two of the book
  • November 11: Part Three of the book
  • November 18: Part Four of the book

April 22-May 20, 2021, “Ishmael” book study

Over five Thursday evenings this spring, a small group of us joined via Zoom to discuss a 1992 philosophical novel by Daniel Quinn. In just over 250  pages, “Ishmael” explores ethics, the Book of Genesis, and sustainability. A perennial best-seller, it has been especially influential among environmentalists.
Lenten Book Study – “Learning to Walk in the Dark” — Feb-March 2021

Nine of us met on Zoom over five Thursday evenings in Lent to discuss a 2014 book by one of my favourite preachers and thinkers, Barbara Brown Taylor — Learning to Walk in the Dark. Taylor wrote it to help us sustain a healthy spiritual life in those times when we don’t have all the answers. She argues that in addition to a dominant “solar spirituality,” we can also learn to appreciate “lunar spirituality” since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes.

To gain a sense of Taylor as a writer, I recommend an article of hers published by The Christian Century last July – “Finding God outside the church walls.

Shock and positive change — Sept 10, 2020

Four of us gathered on Zoom to watch at 15-minute “Ted Talk” recorded by Canadian activist Naomi Klein in 2017 called “How shocking events can spark positive change.” We then spent an hour discussing Klein’s ideas and our reactions.

Lenten discussion series, March 2020

On the first two Thursdays in March, we offered two opportunities for discussion and sharing based on topical podcasts. Meeting at the Lounge at 2 pm, and then again at 7 pm, we reflected on some “hot topics”

  • March 5: “Anti-racism” (based on an episode of CBC’s “Out in the Open”)
  • March 12: “The Lost Art of Scripture” (based on an interview with Karen Armstrong on the CBC program “Ideas”)

This program was interrupted by the global pandemic, which led to the closure of the church building on March 16

November 2019 focus on refugees

In November 2019, Mill Woods United focused on immigration, migrants and refugees by reading and discussing the 2018 award-winning book “Homes: A Refugee Story.” This work of creative non-fiction by Edmonton teacher Winnie Yeung tells the story of an Edmonton teenager, Abu-Bakr al-Rebeeah. He fled with his family from Iraq to Syria in 2010 and then to Edmonton in 2014.

Three Sunday mornings ( November 3, Seeking refugee“; November 17, “Welcoming strangers,” and November 24, “Becoming and intercultural church”) related the book to biblical passages and to our work as a community of love, learning, justice, and hospitality.

On a related note, we were impressed with this recent video clip from CBC’s “The National” about a reunion in Regina of a family of Syrian refugees.

We also held two evenings of informal conversation and discussion on “Homes” — on November 18 and November 25.

Book Study Group: “Unbelievable,” Nov-Dec 2018

Facing the Future group sponsored a six-evening book study group around what is assuredly the last book from American Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong — “Unbelievable: why neither ancient creeds nor the Reformation can produce a living faith today” (Feb. 2018).

Sixteen people participated in two different sessions — one in the morning and one in the evening.

Spong’s book offers 12 theses, which we covered as follows:

• November 1: Preliminary chapters *God — pp. xi-53 (stop after “Freud”)
• November 8: God [remainder] * Jesus Christ * Original Sin — pp. 54-99
• November 15: The Virgin Birth * Miracles — pp. 100-152
• November 22: Atonement theory * Easter * The Ascension — pp, 153-196
• November 29: Ethics * Prayer — pp, 197-254
• December 6: Death * Universalism — pp, 255-287

These discussions helped us deepen our current faith perspectives and share our hopes for the church — Ian

Other past educational opportunities at Mill Woods United have included . . . 

“Hot Topics” — October 2017-April 2018

Below are descriptions of six evening discussions we held in 2017 and 2018.

On Thursday, April 19 at 7 pm, five of us participated in the sixth and last in a series devoted to social issues. We gathered in the Lounge to discuss “Cross Purposes: The Battle for Christianity in Canada.” Written by Michael Coren — ex-evangelical, ex-Catholic, current Anglican, and columnist for the United Church “Observer” — this feature article from the March 31, 2018 issue of “The Globe and Mail” looks at attempts by Christian fundamentalists to legislate “morality;”and wonders if spirituality and social justice can unite.

On March 15, five of us gathered  to discuss nationalism. To spark discussion, we screened a short video from the New York Times website  (“How Nations Make Up National Identities”), watched an excerpt from a new Netflix cooking series called “Ugly Delicious” about the U.S./Mexican border and its impact on the restaurant industry and on people’s lives (this is episode #2 on Tacos!), and referred to a provocative opinion piece from The Atlantic Monthly magazine called “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely.” Some heat and light was generated!

On February 18, five of us gathered with the intention to watch more of Michael Moore’s 2015 document, “Where to Invade Next” — three excerpts on education policy in Europe. But, when I went to get ready for the evening, I found that Netflix had stopped streaming this film! So, I looked around for an alternative. In light of the death on February 15 of evangelist Billy Graham, I decided to show an episode from Netflix’s biopic series on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, “The Crown.” This episode, titled “Vergengenheit” (German for “past tense”), details a) the first crusade of Billy Graham to London in the 1950’s and the beginning of the long personal friendship between Graham and the Queen, and b) the uncovering of the close links between the former King Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor) and the German Nazi High Command.

On Thursday January 18, six of us gathered in the Lounge to watch two short excerpts from Michael Moore’s 2015 film “Where to Invade Next.” The first examines Portugal’s experience with decriminalizing all recreational drugs since 2000. The second is about the liberal prison system in Norway. We enjoyed a lively discussion about both.

On Thursday, November 16, 2017  seven people gathered in the Lounge to watch “Extremis,” a 24-minute Netflix documentary on end-of-life decisions at an Intensive Care Unit in the U.S. Following the video, we enjoyed a time of sharing.

The first discussion occurred on October 19, 2017. We listened to the “The Pros and Cons of Raising Your Kids with Religion” from CBC’s Tapestry. Broadcast on July 30th, it includes host Ali Hassan, a “cultural Muslim,” expressing his worries that he has raised his kids without religion; Aaron Paquette of Edmonton (now a City Counsellor) talking about engaging his children with Cree spiritual traditions; and Reva Smith discussing non-religious rituals and traditions that she hopes will give her kids a sense of Spirit, sacredness, and ethics. After listening to the podcast we shared reactions and comments — Ian

Bible study in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018

A small group of us met on many Thursday afternoons in the fall and winter for Bible study. Meeting from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm in the Lounge, participants meditated on a passage of Scripture that would be the focus for worship the following Sunday. We heard it read three times. After the first reading, each person shared a word from the text that most stood out in their heart and mind. After the second, each person shared something in the passage that connected with their lives. After the third and final reading, each person had a chance to share how the text offered a challenge to them. If you are interested in reviving this type of group, please contact the Office or Ian directly.

Hinduism: Honouring the Divine in Each Other

Members from  Edmonton United Churches gathered in Fall 2015 to study of “Honouring the Divine in Each Other: United Church-Hindu Relations Today (opens a 62-page PDF file).