With the first Sunday of Advent we begin a new year in the Church, and with a new year we have new opportunities dawning for how we grow together in the body of Christ. How will we, as a whole community, come to resemble the love and way of Jesus more fully in the year ahead of us? That question is at the heart of everything I (James Joiner, Associate Rector) am dreaming up for our Adult Education and Formation offerings this year, a project we’re calling Lift Up 2021. 2020 has been a year that threw many of us challenges we hadn’t imagined having to tackle. That’s left us with some anxiety and some hope about how we’ll begin to grow from this point on. In 2021, what parts of our faith do we want to lift up and highlight as being essential to what we’ll grow into next together?

Lift Up 2021 has several levels of engagement to choose from. At its core, all of them seek to give us at St. Michael’s a common language about how we’re seeking to grow and walk with God in the year ahead. While the past year was unlike anything we’d expected, it was one of the most robust years for Christian formation I’ve overseen at St. Michael’s. The use of Zoom meeting spaces has allowed us to gather at times of the week in groups of our community members in numbers unlike any we’ve had in our prior education offerings. It’s also given us a better sense of how to help individuals tailor their level of involvement based on availability and interest. In the year ahead, we’ll use small groups for accountability and support in how we’re seeking to grow in Christ. We’ll have Tuesday evening classes that provide resources around common goals. But if all you have time for is choosing one new behavior or prayer practice to increase your conscious contact with God, there’s space for that, too.

Choosing one thing to focus on lifting up in our life with God is something everyone in our community can do, whether you have time for a small group or class or not. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be talking about what this means and what it can look like to use a single practice as a framework for understanding our relationship to our broader church community and our tradition in general. Our one thing may change from season to season or even week to week if we find that God is reaching us in new and different ways during different times of our life. We’ll even explore how that one thing can be seen in two ways, one for when things are going well and one for when they’re not. Engaging the small-group work and other special offerings can help explore this in a deeper way while building relationships within the community; but even without, that the invitation to choose “one thing” for a further walk with God is open to all.

Please click here to join the gatherings by Zoom. The password, if prompted, is “stmaa.”

The schedule for December 1st through the 24th is as follows:

Tuesday Small Group, 9:30 am
Tuesday Images of Advent Contemplative Time, 6:30 pm
Wednesday Small Group, 9:00 am
Wednesday Small Group, 3:00 pm
Thursday Small Group, 12:00 noon

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