Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"

The reality we belong to and the reality we long to know, extends far beyond solitary existence, ruled by our individual powers of inquiry and feeling, to a place that includes the power of "the grace of great things." That phrase and concept comes from an essay by Rainer Maria Rilke and might best be interpreted by an active seeking to know and understand the shapes and colors of music and art, the novelties and patterns of history, the elusive notion of justice under law, and the symbols and referents of philosophy and religion. It is in the act of gathering together in community and trying to understand the "grace" of such "great things" that we forge an identity as knowers, teachers and learners.

The tradition of lifelong study and education in community at Union Avenue Christian Church dates back to the church's founding. It was Dr. James M. Philputt, Union Avenue's first senior minister, who nudged the congregation into examining religious texts in new ways — consistent with "modern scholarly interpretation."

As a community of learners, our horizons have broadened beyond religious texts to include other pursuits as well. In our pursuit of truth and wisdom:

  • We invite diversity into our community not because it is politically correct but, rather, because diverse viewpoints open doors to new understanding.
  • We welcome conflict and open discussion not because we are angry or hostile [by our very nature] but because acknowledging and embracing conflict is required to see beyond our biases and prejudices. 
  • We encourage honesty because we owe that to each other, and honesty is essential to uncovering truth.
  • We seek to engage from a place of humility not because we are privy to privileged or sacred information, but, rather, because we are respectful of the great cloud of witnesses who have informed our faith and our understanding of what it means to live life in the presence of God.

Beginning Sunday, September 11, 2016, we will return to our regular schedule of Sunday school opportunities for adults and children of all ages. Here are brief snapshots of the opportunities available: 

The Homebuilders Class discusses questions emerging from the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary American society and culture. Works of fiction as well as theology and social science provide the background for discussions. For example, over the past year the class has given a close reading to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS as well as GILEAD, a beautiful work of prose by Marilynne Robinson, a distinguished member of the Iowa Writers Workshop and pastor of the United Church in Iowa City who is regarded by many as one of the ablest American fiction writers dealing with issues of Christian faith. We cull our questions from many sources including the internet, film and, yes, the radio. We tap into personal experiences and histories tying together the past and the future. Overall, our basic objective is to seek a better understanding of our individual roles in today's environment. 

The Homebuilders will continue to meet the second Sunday of each month in the Chapel from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Members of the class welcome both temporary and permanent participants and contributors to its ongoing discussion.

The Second Floor Class will begin on September 11 by reading CONVICTIONS by Marcus Borg. Then, after that, members of the class will consider whether to return to studying the "revised common lectionary" of sacred texts, or select another book to study. Some other books under consideration are: Krista Tippet’s BECOMING WISE: AN INQUIRY INTO THE MYSTERY AND ART OF LIVING and Sharon Watkins’ book WHOLE: A CALL TO UNITY IN OUR FRAGMENTED WORLD. The Second Floor Class meets weekly, gathering around a large table, in room 207. 
The Faith and Daily Life Class meets weekly  in room 213. This inter-generational class seeks to uncover answers to questions, such as: How does or should our faith interact with the events around us, both locally and globally? What can or should the church universal and Union Avenue, specifically, be doing or saying with regard to social, political, and economic issues before us? How do we make sure our community challenges us to think beyond our own reality and experiences? What does commitment to such a community look like, and how do we as individuals exist, grow, and even thrive in such an intentional community? 

Elementary Class — This class for elementary-age young disciples meets in room 210 on our second floor. Each week we begin with a time of singing and learning songs followed by an adventure through the Bible (using the Deep Blue children’s curriculum). This class is lead by Alex Cooper and Abby Henegar, both of whom are XPLOR residents in our community.

Preschoolers – Our young ones meet in room 211 each Sunday for singing, a short lesson and creative activity related to favorite Bible stories. Michelle Mueller leads this class: she is assisted by Simran Singh.

Nursery/Toddlers – Our toddlers enjoy a short story time and activity each Sunday morning as well as play time. Our nursery is located on the first floor, adjacent to the sanctuary.

If you're interested in joining one of these communities, you're welcome to join us beginning Sunday, September 11. If you're interested in study and education but not sure which of these options would best suit your needs, please don't hesitate to speak with Suzanne Webb or Ron Lindsey in the church office.