Last year when the BBC brought out the Jimmy McGovern drama ‘Broken‘ I had a number of conversations with priest friends about how it would lend itself well to a study course. Lots of people clearly thought this and Paula Gooder brought out this Lent course earlier this year.
I got together with two priest friends, Fr David (who is a curate in Cullercoats, Newcastle Diocese) and Mother Rebecca (who is a Prison Chaplain in Lichfield Diocese) and we decided to write a course that would work with our own people – people very similar to those in Fr Michael’s congregation in the TV programme. Courses to use with adults for discipleship or confirmation are often book-based and don’t use different teaching styles to meet different needs – we wanted to redress that and create something that would be flexible in lots of contexts and that would work with people who have been in church for a long time and those for whom church is quite an alien experience. You don’t have to have seen the programme to use the course – there is the option of showing a clip at the beginning of each session (the series is available on BBC DVD). There are 6 sessions which each work as a standalone session. So, for example, if you just wanted to run a session about Holy Communion you could do that on its own.
Given the diverse nature of congregations, the elements of each week’s session include reflective prayer activities as well as time for group discussions that make no assumptions about people’s educational background and seek to meet different learning styles and spiritual preferences. Each session, if all the elements are used, should take around an hour and a half to do.
- Opening prayer: a candle is lit and these words are said “This candle is to remind us of God’s presence with us”. Silence is then kept.
- Introduction to the theme. The theme is introduced using a quotation from Broken in a paragraph to be read out and the option to show a clip from the programme.
- Bible Reading (Lectio Divina) a passage is read slowly by different voices 2 or 3 times. Silence is kept for people to read along for themselves, seeing what ideas and images are standing out the most. After some time, each person is encouraged to share one word or phrase that stood out for them. The passage is read out again. Then each person is encouraged to share whether the same word or image stood out again or not and why.
- Questions for discussion a series of questions on the week’s theme is provided that the group leader can choose from or that can be printed out and put in a bowl to be drawn at random. The group discusses the questions and shares thoughts and ideas.
- Response time – following group discussion, simple prayer response activities are suggested.
- Closing prayer– using a prayer used by Fr Michael in the drama Broken.
The 6 sessions:
- Beauty in the ordinary
- Loving the unlovable
- Guilt and shame
- Impossible Situations
- The power of Holy Communion
- Is the church still relevant and needed today?
With colleagues I ran this course this Lent in Houghton-le-Spring and the group really enjoyed it, we had some deep and profound conversations.