Out of the Archives: Adult Education Classes

by | Sep 26, 2019

The Rev. Dr. Harrison Owen, associate rector at St. Margaret’s Church, leads an adult education class – picture from Washington Diocese magazine, March 1966

The program year has begun in churches throughout the Diocese! In today’s world, lifelong learning opportunities to explore our Christian vocations are offered for all ages, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 1966, the March edition of the “Diocesan Newswire” column in Washington Diocese magazine, reported on a new phenomenon:

Groups of churchmen and women are gathering informally in increasing numbers to give hard thought to ….. perplexing problems. Some come under the label of “adult education classes” like the one meeting Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. with Harrison Owen, the young associate rector at St. Margaret’s Church.  There was literally “no room” for them in the church. They gather in the Sirloin and Saddle room of the Hot Shoppes just opposite on Connecticut Ave. N.W., and drink coffee as he propounds profound and broadly liberal truths of the life, death and resurrection of daily life. More come each week. He does not view God as a “pale reflection of humanity with a long white beard” but views Him as a God of love whose outreach embraces all humanity and who meets us supremely in the life of Jesus Christ. Lively discussion follows.

Recently, I spoke with the Rev. Dr. Owen about the origin of these new “adult education classes.” When asked to name the class he would teach, Dr. Owen came up with “Faith to Live By.” At first, he had no idea what the content would be. Eventually the focus developed into the dilemmas that people face every day, with one aspect of the discussion centering on the tensions of the Ten Commandments. All these years later, Dr. Owen recounts the success of his adult education experiment with humble amazement, still awed by the fun and excitement. 

If you need resources to assist your leaders in educating any age, I encourage you to check into Department of Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary. The staff host webinars, provide consultations, crowd-source ideas, and more. Then you, too, could take over the dining room of the closest restaurant!

Mrs. Susan Stonesifer
Diocesan Historiographer