Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”
In my sabbatical study of thriving congregations, among the commonalities I discovered was a commitment to what in academic settings is known as a core curriculum. As part of their mission to help people grow in their relationship to Christ and follow his teachings, these churches offer a small number of foundational learning/growth opportunities every year. For some, one of the offerings is the Alpha Course, or something like it–an introduction to the Christian faith in a relaxed setting where all questions are welcome. For others, their curriculum includes a course on how to read the Bible, or Christian principles for healthy relationships, or a yearly course or workshop on financial planning–not for fundraising purposes in the church, but how to develop sound financial habits informed by faith.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited all Episcopalians to take up the Way of Love, a rule of life focused on Jesus. Beginning this Sunday, I will explore the Way of Love in a sermon series which will be available to all in both audio and text format by the following Monday. I’ll be using the Sunday morning lectionary that we developed for this series which is available on our Way of Love website page. Prior to each sermon we’ll post on the website and include in the e-newsletter a suggested daily prayer format and bible passages that corresponds with each practice. You can find next week’s devotional here. For those who wish to gather in small groups to reflect on the Way of Love practices, we have a suggested template and guide for your discussions.
I’m aware of a few EDOW congregations that will be following along in the Way of Love series this fall, with clergy using the proposed Sunday lectionary and preaching sermons of their own on each of the seven practices. We’d love to know if your church is among them, so that we can share insights and learnings. Others are planning to use The Way of Love series in the season of Epiphany, or as the topic for parish retreats and mid-week or Sunday morning teaching series. If you have Way of Love offerings planned, please let us know so that we might share insights and learnings with one another.
The Presiding Bishop envisions the Way of Love as part of The Episcopal Church’s core curriculum, as do I for us in the Diocese of Washington. That means we will return to it regularly, and keep resource materials current for ongoing use. Over time, we want to include other offerings, so as to create a rich body of teachings for deepening Christian faith and practice. If you have thoughts about what to include in our core curriculum, please write to me.
As we begin this walk together, let me underscore the obvious: the Way of Love is not something new. It is simply a reaffirmation of ancient spiritual practices that open us to the love of Jesus and the ways we are called to join him in love for others. Nor does the Way of Love promise to fix the many challenges we face as a church. On the other hand, if we don’t engage in them, or others like them, we lose sight of what the church is. The church isn’t a building, an institution, a community desperate to survive. It is, as the Presiding Bishop loves to say, a movement, a gathering of people who daily choose to follow Jesus in his ways of love for the world, person by person, community by community.
I’m grateful to be among you as a fellow traveler on the Way of Love.