Last year Westview Centre4Women asked Westview to run an Alpha series, an introductory course on Christianity from an Evangelical perspective. Despite hosting a relatively successful series, a number of challenges with the material became apparent. The women found the Alpha videos very dry and the language difficult to understand. Nevertheless, as with many Alpha series, the real benefit came from the simple fact that we were gathering together as a group to learn about life, religion, and the Gospel. This year the Centre has again asked for an Alpha-like series, so a small group of us have taken up the task of improving on what was accomplished last year. If you're interested, here's a link to the new curriculum we developed
This year we’ve decided to do a few things differently, beginning by foregoing the Alpha videos altogether and renaming the group Wonder Wednesdays. We also decided to tinker a bit with the structure of the evening, adapting a liturgy from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in California. The evening begins with a welcoming ritual that helps us set aside the business and clutter of the day and prepare to listen and learn from each other. As participants arrive they are asked to form a circle around a bowl of rocks and a jug of water. Rocks and water serve to symbolize that each of us brings his or her own unique challenges and gifts to the group. All of us experience things that feel hard, or heavy, or rough sometimes… like rocks. Each member of the circle has an opportunity to take a rock in their hands, to close their eyes and, while taking a few deep breaths, notice what may have felt hard, or rough, or heavy for them in the last week. The rocks are then gently returned to the bowl. Water reminds us that love, life, goodness, and ultimately God, flow over and under and around and even sometimes right out of the hard and rough places of life. As water is carefully poured over the rocks, members are asked to take a few deep breaths and notice what has been a gift for them in the last week. As we pour water over the rocks we remember the gifts we bring and the things that bind us together. The end of the welcome ritual is signaled by the chime of a bell, the reading of the lord’s prayer, and the lighting of a candle.
After the parable and discussion, we take time to communicate feelings and thoughts visually through some sort of activity (the activity will be somewhat of a surprise to all involved as planning the activity is the responsibility of the different leader each night).
The formal component is followed by the feast. All participants are encouraged to help prepare the feasting table and set out the food. The food is blessed, served, and enjoyed by all. The evening ends with the song “Go Now in Peace” (a song introduced to Westview by The Commons, a church in Hamilton).
Although untested by our group, we’re hoping this liturgy provides enough repetition for members to gain the confidence and the comfort needed to share their gifts and begin being unburdened of their challenges. Wonder Wednesdays begin November 18th.