Christian Foundations, subtitled “A Grounding for a Life of Faith,” is so comprehensive that it might equally well have been dubbed, “All You Ever Wanted to Know About Christianity But Were Too Afraid to Ask.” This new nine-module course was written under the direction of the Rev. Canon Dr. Judy Paulsen, director of the Institute of Evangelism at Wycliffe College, with co-authors Patrick Paulsen and the Rev. Canon Susan Bell. There is an attractive handbook for each student, which is also a personal workbook.
A group of 40 parishioners at All Saints, Whitby, led by the Rev. Canon Stephen Vail, signed up for the course as a Lenten study this year, ending two weeks after Easter. Each Wednesday evening, a simple supper of soup and bread was offered before the course started, providing fellowship and an opportunity to forge new friendships. A repeat session was run by a lay person, Joanne Warman, on Thursday mornings for those unable to come on Wednesdays.
Starting with the basic tenet that God wants us to know him and pass along the invitation to others, the modules take participants through the story of Israel and the structure of the Old Testament. This provides a vital context to the arrival of Jesus, and who he is. The journey continues with the birth and development of the early church and the New Testament. Key doctrines and the split that resulted from the Reformation come next. The final two modules deal with growing in one’s faith through spiritual disciplines and, lastly, how every Christian can grow as a disciple, or an “apprentice”, of Jesus. Each module is made up of information narratives, interactive exercises, small group discussion questions and fill-in-the-blank quizzes. Ms. Warman commented that Christian Foundations was a good refresher course. “It reminded me of the fact that God desires a relationship with his children,” she said.
The group’s overall satisfaction was expressed in the feedback received after the final session: “Great course, great workbook;” “I learned a lot that I didn’t know that helped other information make sense;” “I would recommend that everyone should do this course;” “I especially liked the way the course gave an overview of the history of the church.”
There is no doubt that Christian Foundations was a worthwhile venture. It is a very thorough study of how Christianity was born and where it is going. At the same time, the clear layout of the book makes it easy to follow. The last word comes from one person who had never attended a Christian course before: “At first, I felt I was going to be in the middle of a lake without paddles, but to my surprise a number of us felt that way. I am glad we earned our paddles!”
For more information about running Christian Foundations in your parish, visit www.wycliffecollege.ca/christianfoundations.
By Jacky Bramma, a member of All Saints, Whitby.