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Online Lenten Bible study enriches faith


1:00 P.M. EST April 11, 2011 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Jacob Armstong takes questions during a webinar held at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
Jacob Armstong takes questions during a webinar held at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
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The first United Methodist Rethink Church online Bible study draws attention to God’s presence in current events.

The Rev. Jacob Armstrong, who serves Providence United Methodist Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., leads the six-week Lenten series, Encounter Faith: Fearless, which began March 14 and will conclude April 18. During the first three weeks, the average number of page views exceeded 3,100.

Using FaithLink curriculum from the United Methodist Publishing House, the series focuses on a different topic each week. Downloadable resources introduce weekly topics. Audio and webinar files may be shared on church websites or Facebook. Leaders can play back the webinars in a group setting, with participants following along and pausing for discussion.

“I think it’s going to be helpful,” wrote Kelvin Chitowo of Windhoek, Namibia, on Facebook. “I love it!”

Connie Vogel in Houston agreed. “I am still trying to wrap my mind around this concept, but I believe interactive, online Bible study and classes will work. I am very excited about this.”

The March 14 study focused on cultivating a rich, spiritual life in a technological age, while on March 21, participants looked at how God works in a world of political upheaval and how their actions can matter. The March 28 study pondered how advances in computer technology nurture and challenge human views of human nature and God. On April 4, participants considered how to respond to hate-filled rhetoric.

The final two studies — April 11 and 18 — will highlight the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. How is God present in the midst of such disaster? How do Christians participate in recovery and rebuilding after such devastation?

The nuclear crisis caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has global implications regarding the use of nuclear power. How do we sort through the issues when human power, the power of nature and God's power seem to collide? How can our faith guide us to be responsible stewards of nature?

The Rev. Scott Hughes, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church, Douglasville, Ga., has participated in the webinar. He appreciates the focus on current events.

Through Encounter Faith, he said, “we can speak to the issues people are concerned about, worried about, the issues that are on the forefront of their minds. It’s a way to connect what is happening in the world with what God is doing in the world.

“(The webinar) has enhanced my awareness,” Hughes added. “These are not just political issues or news stories. They are matters of faith.”

The preview of FaithLink is free and downloadable, but study leaders can purchase the full curriculum at www.cokesbury.com/faithlink.

For further online discussion of these topics, go to www.rethinkchurch.org/encounterfaith.

For more information, contact rethinkchurch@umcom.org.

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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