The parishioners of St. John, East Orangeville, had been searching for several months for something that would bring us together, beyond our usual Sunday morning service or social events. We wanted to offer some teaching about scripture that would also allow for dialogue and growth in our faith journey.
We sensed that parishioners weren’t quite ready for the outgoing and invitational nature of some of the programs that are currently available, such as Alpha or Christianity Explored. We came across the Pilgrim course and thought it was worth a try. The course is a resource of the Church of England to help make disciples of Jesus Christ. It was introduced to our incumbent, the Rev. John Lockyer, at the diocese’s clergy conference last May.
We tossed around many ideas about when and where we should meet and finally decided on Friday nights. We are a semi-rural parish with a congregation encompassing busy families with young children, commuters, retirees and seniors. We knew that offering a simple dinner before each meeting would be a good way to help people at the end of a busy week. We were quite up front that our first meeting was simply a test, and I was keen not to go ahead with the program if less than 10 people arrived.
So began Pizza & Pilgrim night at St. John’s. I admit I was surprised when 17 adults and five kids arrived on the first night. It turned out to be a wonderful cross-generational gathering, the oldest being 89 and the youngest aged four. Dinner was followed by our first meeting and childcare for the kids – an important component so that the whole family could attend.
The Pilgrim course has definitely met our needs. Our second group has just finished its six-week run, and there is talk about a third group forming later in the spring.
Many participants have commented that the time spent reading and discussing scripture together has been refreshing. Also, the ancient practice of Lectio Divina reading has made old-hat scriptures come alive again for some. Others have been challenged to reflect on their core beliefs. We have begun to think about what it means to listen to the voice of God as individuals and collectively as a parish.
The Pilgrim course has levels for beginners and experienced disciples. Each program has six evening sessions, with short video discussion starters that can be streamed online for free. A leader’s manual for each program can also be downloaded. Participant workbooks are distributed by Novalis through its retail store in Toronto.
Submitted by Heidi Allen