Editor’s (admin’s) Note. Copy of a blast email I sent out to members of an online adult faith formation/book study group that Debi and I co-facilitate. (It meets Sundays at 6 p.m., as you might guess.) Lightly edited to remove a couple of obvious illiteracies and set off block quotations that I wasn’t able to in the email. Archived here for its description of the book — and to preserve a wonderful quote by St. Gregory of Nyssa on the fourth-century disputes over the nature of the Trinity. I’m archiving it here, where I can retrieve it with a keyword search, because both (a) the book and (b) St. Gregory’s wry observation about the bickering in Constantinople regarding the nature of the “Begotten and the Unbegotten” can tell us much about interfaith relations today.
Hi everybody —
We’re starting up Sundays@6 this week with a new book. Our first meeting will be Sunday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. (why, of course!); we’ll take up the intro and Chapter 1 of “Christianity’s Family Tree” by Adam Hamilton. A participant handout is attached, and here’s the Zoom link from our announcement in News You Can Use:
(If this one doesn’t work, you can go to Friday’s NYCU and click on the one there; and our phone number is [redacted] if there are glitches.)
Since we’re starting a new book, this is a perfect time for newbies to join us. Talk it up! We’ve had an announcement in NYCU for several weeks, but word-of-mouth is the best publicity.
A couple of changes in our format:
(1) We have Adam Hamilton’s videos to accompany the book (they run 15 minutes and they’ll feature interviews with an Orthodox priest, a Catholic, an ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] bishop and representatives of the other denominations we cover). So we’ll log on at 5:45 p.m. to chat and work out tech issues, but we have to start the video at 6 o’clock sharp in order to have enough time left to discuss the book. We’re learning how to screen-share them on Zoom. (Yay! to Pam for teaching us.) As soon as we get comfortable with the technique, it should work very well; the videos add a lot.
(2) Hamilton has excellent opening and closing prayers in our Leaders’ Guide; they relate so well to the content of each chapter, we’ll start and finish our meetings with them. The prayers will be included in the weekly participant’s handout we’re sending as an attachment.
The book’s intro is important because Hamilton tells us where he’s coming from. He’s a United Methodist minister, and he put together the series for his congregation. But he adds:
“[…] I want to be clear that the focus in this book is not to convince you that United Methodists are better Christians than others. I am hoping that all of us, of whatever denomination, can learn from one another, and by listening to others, can become more faithful Christians. My aim in each of these chapters is to help us learn from the traditions we are studying and to allow each of them to deepen our own faith and our experience of God.”
Other chapters explore the Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist traditions. They’re pretty much in chronological order. We’re in full communion with the United Methodists, by the way. The 2009 press release announcing the union explains:
“Full communion is not merger. But it means that the two churches express a common confession of Christian faith; mutual recognition of Baptism and sharing Holy Communion; join worship and freedom to exchange members; agree to a mutual recognition of ordained ministers for service in either church; express a common commitment to evangelism, witness and service; engage in common decision-making on critical matters; and a mutual lifting of criticisms that may exist between the churches” (see “ELCA Assembly Adopts Full Communion with the United Methodist Church,” Aug. 20, 2009, at https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/6577).
In Chapter 1, Hamilton discusses not only what today’s Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (among others) believe, but some of the history. The Orthodox and the Catholic hierarchies split in 1054 AD over a dispute about the nature of the Trinity in the Nicene Creed. So we’ll look at the creed. How important is it to understand the Trinity? Other articles of faith in the creeds?
We know these issues were important in the early days of Christianity. Pete loves a quote from St. Gregory of Nyssa, who described the discussions in Constantinople in the late 300s:
“The whole city is full of it, the squares, the market places, the cross-roads, the alleyways; old-clothes men, money changers, food sellers: they are all busy arguing. If you ask someone to give you change, he philosophizes about the Begotten and the Unbegotten; if you inquire about the price of a loaf [of bread], you are told by way of reply that the Father is greater and the Son inferior; if you ask ‘Is my bath ready?’ the attendant answers that the Son was made out of nothing.”
If you don’t have a book yet, here’s a link to Amazon, where there are 94 new and used copies available today from $1.44 on up (the number varies from day to day):
(If that link doesn’t work, just Google the author and title: Adam Hamilton, “Christianity’s Family Tree.)
Hope to see you Sunday!
[Uplinked Sept. 16, 2022]