Editor’s (admin’s) note. Lightly edited copy of a blast email I sent out promoting a new book study that my wife and I are co-facilitating for an adult faith formation group in our ELCA Lutheran parish. While the book is about “renewing the church from its Lutheran core,” and it quotes Martin Luther extensively, its content is applicable to other denominations as well. I’m archiving it here for two reasons: (1) So I can find the schedule again without its getting lost in the clutter on my desk; and (2) because some of the issues — especially the author’s “big picture” focus on beliefs we hold in common — factor into my own faith formation as a self-identified ecumenical mutt.

Hi everybody —

Our first Sundays@6 Zoom session on Kelly Fryer’s “Reclaiming the ‘L’ Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core” is this Sunday, July 10. We’re taking it up because we liked her “Reclaiming the ‘E’ Word” so much during the Evangelism/Faithful Innovations Committee’s book study in the spring, we voted to read another book of hers. Please join us! Help us spread the word, too — newbies are always welcome to join. 

The Zoom link is in Friday’s [online parish newsletter]. We look forward to seeing you.

The rest of this email message will preview the discussions — kind of halfway between a syllabus and a promo of coming attractions. But first, a housekeeping matter: If you haven’t gotten a book yet, you can find a sneak preview of the preface, intro and first part of Chapter 1 on Amazon. Try this link:

If you haven’t ordered one yet, BTW, there are 90 used copies available today, starting at $1.22. Or you can get one new from Augsburg Fortress. They cost $14.95, and Augsburg is really quick in fulfilling orders. Link here:

https://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/9780806645964/Reclaiming-the-L-Word

THE FIRST WEEK

As with most other books, the “front matter” (preface, intro, etc.) is promotional, but it gives a good idea of what the book is going to be about – how “Christian disciples today have to live out their faith in a society that is largely indifferent to what they may believe,” as Timothy Full, president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, puts it in the foreword.

In the first chapter, Fryer asks the same question: How can a Lutheran church cope in our time of “declining worship attendance and decreasing (aging) membership rolls?” She titles the chapter “In Defense of Dogma,” and she observes “[…] when I ask Lutherans across the country what they think it means to be a Christian, much less a Christian who also happens to be a Lutheran, I get all kinds of interesting responses including everything from ‘We’re saved by grace!’ to Jell-O. And we are not, by any means, the only Christians who are struggling with this issue.”

But mostly she tells the story of how a church she pastored in the southwest suburbs of Chicago learned to live up to its logo – proclaiming it be “THE WELCOME PLACE” – and recalls St. Paul’s struggle with St. Peter to admit gentiles who didn’t keep kosher into the early church (in Paul’s letter to the Gallatians). In the discussion questions at the end of the chapter, she asks: “Describe a time when you were involved in a conflict with someone you love … and you later realized that what you were fighting about didn’t really matter that much after all? What would have happened if, in the heat of the argument, someone had remembered the ‘big’ picture … and all the important things you have in common? How would it have made a difference?” 

Fryer has other questions at the end of the chapter, and we’ll have our own, too. Beginning with “God moments” — when were we aware of the presence of God in our daily lives? — and our old standby — What stood out to you? What jumped off the page at you?

WHAT DO WE WANT TO LEARN?

Here’s a trick Pete learned teaching at Benedictine, called a “pre-/post-assessment” — we’ve tried it before, and it seems to work. When we begin a new book, we ask ourselves, “what do I want to learn from it?” Then, at the end, we ask, “what did I learn?” When we began “E Word” in the spring, we shared our questions with the group and identified two we wanted to follow:

  • Is there hope for our church, especially in light of the demographic challenges facing mainline Protestant churches that Fryer discusses? 
  • Will studying her book increase our comfort level with the intent and practice of the “E Word?” Both externally (outreach) and internally (inreach)? If so, where do we go with it from here?  

In fact, our decision to read “L Word” next grew out of our discussion of those two questions: (Spoiler alert: Fryer focuses on them in both books.) At the end of “E Word,” instead of answering them, we decided they’re good questions and we want to know more. So no doubt we’ll want to keep asking them. But you’ll have other questions, too, so let’s start Sunday by identifying where we want to go from here — what do we want to learn from “L Word?”

SCHEDULE

  • July 10 – Preface, Intro and Ch1 – In Defense of Dogma
  • July 17 – Ch2 – A Confession (Lutheran core values — from the Augsburg Confession — and guiding principles from Kelly Fryer’s Chicago-area congregation)
  • July 24 – Ch3 – Jesus is Lord (the basics, from the Garden of Eden and Jesus to Luther and Tiger Woods)
  • July 31 – Ch4 – Everyone Is Welcome (and why “everyone” means *everyone*)
  • Aug. 7 – Ch5 – Love Changes People (more wisdom on this gospel truth from Jesus, Paul, Luther and Kelly Fryer’s old congregation)
  • Aug. 14 – Ch6 – Everybody Has Something to Offer (what’s new with Luther’s concept of the priesthood of all believers)
  • Aug. 21 – Ch7– The World Needs What We Have – and Afterword

ONE LAST NOTE

When we sent out a flier last week announcing the “L Word” book study, Pete didn’t catch a typo in the email address. So we’ve fixed it, and we’re attaching a revised copy with the correct spelling. Please feel free to share it! 

We”re sending this to anyone we remember who was in our adult Sunday School class that met before the pandemic. If you think of someone else, please pass the word. […]

[Published July 9, 2022]

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