Adult Education

At Mill Woods United, we gather to discuss the 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 “lifelong learning in Love.” Below are descriptions of some activities that seek to fulfill this need.

“Hot Topics” — October 2017-April 2018

Below are descriptions of six evening discussions. In Fall 2018, we hope to offer a series of film screenings followed by discussions. Stay tuned for details.

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

Past educational opportunities at Mill Woods United have included . . . 

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.

April 4, 2016, Monday, 5 pm — ‘The Walrus’ talks spirituality

Six people gathered in the church Lounge for a live stream of an event in Toronto organized by the United Church ‘Observer’ and ‘The Walrus’ magazine. Leading thinkers examined faith, culture, community and the role of spirituality in our secular society:

• Nicole Brooks, creator
• Natalie Bull, executive director, The National Trust for Canada
• Lewis Cardinal, Cardinal Strategic Communications
• Timothy Caulfield, author
• Joan Garson, president, Holy Blossom Temple
• Michael Ingham, bishop and theologian
• Gretta Vosper, minister, United Church of Canada

Lenten series on reconciliation: Feb 16, 23 and March 1, 2016

Several of us participated in a three-part “webinar” organized by the United Church on reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in the church. “Speaking from the heart” occurred over three Tuesdays from 6-8 pm: Feb 16, 23, and March 1.

Fall 2015: Book Study: “A Religion of One’s Own”

This was a six-week study group that read and discussed “A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World.” Discussing this 2014 book by Thomas Moore of “Care of the Soul” became a launching pad for nine of us to share ideas, ask important questions, deepen our  spirituality, and get to know one better.

Look here for similar opportunities in 2016.

From the book’s cover: “Whether you belong to a specific religious tradition, or are an agnostic, atheist, or seeker, it is possible to fill the gap between the spiritual and the secular.  By paying attention to inner guidance and mystical experiences in nature and art and doing the service we feel called to do, Moore argues that we can find a sense of purpose that satisfies us spiritually, intellectually and emotionally.

Drawing on his twelve years as a monk; the best of major religious traditions; and the wisdom and experiences of many writers, thinkers, and artists, Moore shows how we can create lives that feed our soul”.

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).

Other ast education groups

In the Fall of 2014, we ran a weekly Bible Study and an evening Sharing Circle. In Lent 2015, we offered a book study on “The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg and John Crossan. This 2006 book follows the Gospel of Mark’s account of Holy Week (Mark 11-16). It presents the wisdom of two progressive “Jesus Seminar” scholars for a general audience.

Everyone who tries to follow the Way of Jesus has doubts, questions and insights to share. If you have an idea for adult education, please bring it to either Ian Kellogg or Ethel Ray.