Courageous Faith Discussion Group

Facilitated by Jenny Shultz-Thomas
Sundays, February 18-March 31, 9:15-10:20 a.m., Bradow Room

This group will utilize the book Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear, by Emily Heath.  You are invited to participate in a discussion about how to replace fear with hope.

Hope lives in every one of us, but depends upon the strength, and encouragement of a community to find its path and voice. Together, through faith, we can rise and resist in a time of fear! Books can be ordered through the UCC's Pilgrim Press. All are welcome to participate whether you are following along with the reading or simply dropping in to participate in a lively discussion.

Reading assignment for March 10

Dear Friends,

We have transitioned from the "Rise" part of the book to the "Resist" part of the book.

This week we will discuss chapters 7-8: Preserving & Choosing

"Be this guy".
Heath draws our attention to various forms of resistance.
In Luther's case, it was an honest commitment to his own convictions rather than giving in under pressure.
In the Nazi rally, "this guy" sat arms crossed while others did the Nazi salute in earnest.

Heath reminds us that "True resistance, like recovery, always costs something, and so resistance, like recovery, always requires moral courage."

On Sunday, I would like to give each of you the opportunity to discuss your own relationship to resistance, and to share examples where you have faced your own "Diet of Worms", and thus had to summon your own moral courage. Maybe you haven't stood face to face with a room full of judges, but you have stared down your greatest judge in the mirror many times...

Heath asks their congregation, "What would you do if you were unafraid?"
or- "if you believed in the promises of God enough that you would not be intimated by the negative messages of this world?"

How would you respond?

We all face our own struggles, as well as the larger struggles that we as a society are facing. What kind of tools do you use to combat the fears that threaten you to keep silent? Think about sharing these with the group on Sunday keeping in mind that we each come from different places in life: some of us female, some male, some like Heath are gender-neutral, some have experienced trauma and others have known mostly privilege throughout our lives. Regardless of the circumstances that have shaped our lives, we all face struggles. With our faith we can find the resources and tools we need to find the moral courage to resist the powers that be.

Heath discusses the importance of "choosing life" when the odds of surviving are against you. A few of us mentioned last week that there were moments when we wondered about whether death might be a better answer than the life we were living. Perhaps Calvin's Perseverance of the Saints has been the source of our strength, or perhaps the community that surrounds us on the journey; whatever it is we need remember that there are those out there who do not know either - that is why we must choose resistance, and that is why we must first "rise up" out of our that when the day of evil comes...we will be able to stand firm (Ephesians 6).

Rise, and resist one step at a time.

Have a great weekend,

Reading assignment for March 3

Hi All!

We will continue the work of finding our Courageous Faith as we seek to replace fear with hope this Lenten season this Sunday at 9:15am.

This week we will discuss chapters 5 & 6:
Connected & Invested. This is where the book starts to really turn from looking at our own stories of pain, harmful habits and conversion experiences to what can happen when one emerges in wholeness alongside supportive communities.

From chapter 5 we will discuss the metaphor from Heath’s fly-fishing stories of fishing in dead or living water. Whether you have read the chapter or not this will be a very accessible discussion for all.

Heath names the importance of doing intersectional work and invites us to consider what makes a healthy and helpful ally.

In chapter 6, Heath wraps up the first part of this book which they entitled “Rise” by inviting us to Invest in what sustains us on the journey, or as they say in recovery, “the maintenance” work of staying sober. Heath focuses our attention on being conscious of our connection with God through prayer and service then points us toward the importance of gratitude as a sustaining presence for us.

Emily ends the chapter (Part 1) like this:
“As we end this part, remember for a moment what you have had to overcome. There has been some pharaoh who wanted you dead and who drove you out in the wilderness. There is something in your life that you have tried to run from just as surely as Jonah ran from Nineveh, but that still held you prisoner in a cell as bleak the belly of a whale. There is something with which you have had to wrestle just as surely as Jacob did with God. There is something that has had you down at the bottom of a steep hole, looking up with no way to escape. But there is also someone who, when you were alone in the city, a prodigal who longed for home, stood on the road waiting for you to come back. There is someone who has been running with you, waiting for you to turn back.

See you tomorrow!

Reading assignment for February 25
Dear Friends,

This past week we discussed the prologue and chapters 1-2, basically naming and sharing a fear that we are hoping to replace with Hope during our journey through Lent. Perhaps you were not ready to share that fear on Sunday, and you may never be ready to share it, but please know that our group is sacred space for you.

This week we will discuss chapters 3 & 4: Reconciled & Whole.

We will have an opportunity to discuss our own "conversion" experiences as Heath describes conversion: (conversion- [Latin} "to turn around") explaining that something happens in recovery once you get knee-deep in the water, when one thinks it is them who is running towards God, they suddenly realize that God has also been running towards them. It just took turning back around to see it.

We will share primary influences in our lives that have largely shaped who we have become as well as places of collective & individual brokenness. Where do we need reconciliation? What is broken in me?

And because we know that we cannot look with courage upon our own shortcomings or brokenness unless love is our native language, we will explore the pathway to self-love. The inner journey requires a compassion for self that the world never speaks of.

I look forward to seeing you and praying you through this Lenten journey,