I love history. I was a history major in college. My favorite trips are to historical places: wandering around old churches and houses, learning about the lives of our ancestors, reading about the places I visit. By studying history, we create the stories of who we are as a people. Just as groups of people have histories, the church has a history as well. This summer, our combined adult Sunday School class will be learning about those stories that have built the Church over the centuries.Hayes Barton’s combined adult Sunday School class begins on June 16 and continues through August 18. Our theme for the summer is “Summer Seminary: Turning Points in Church History.” Each of the ten meetings will focus on an event in the history of the Church that changed the trajectory of the Church in the world. Our pastors will be our class leaders over summer on this journey into history from the first century through today. Our hope is that we can learn more about our church, our faith, and our bonds with one another. Perhaps, together, we can have a better understanding of how the Church came to be the Church and the ideas and faith practices that bind us together.
Our Summer Seminary’s turning points in history will be based a book by Mark Noll called Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. A copy is available is the Hayes Barton UMC Library on Pastor Molly’s bookshelf. While you may wish to peruse the chapters of the book, our Summer Seminary is designed in a lecture and question format so that you may simply show up to learn and to engage without having read or studied the materials. The only thing required is an inquisitive and open mind. The following are our topics for the summer and their approximate dates:
June 16 – The Fall of Jerusalem (70)
June 23 – The Councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451)
June 30 – Benedict’s Rule (530)
July 7 – The Coronation of Charlemagne (800)
July 14 – The Great Schism (1054)
July 21 – The Diet of Worms (1521)
July 28 – The English Act of Supremacy (1534)
August 4 – Conversion of the Wesleys (1738)
August 11 – The French Revolution (1789)
August 18 – Vatican II and the merger of The United Methodist Church (1968)
While learning is a wonderful end in itself, the faithful person realizes that we learn with our heads and with our hearts. Our Summer Seminary is not only concerned with consuming knowledge and memorizing facts, but through our discussions in Summer Seminary we also hope to inspire your faith, to help you imagine living through the changes in the Church, and to bring deeper understanding of how our faith traditions and practices fit into the Church universal.
Rowan Williams, a former Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England, wrote about how the Christian believer should approach church history: “…The Christian believer approaching the Christian past does so first in the consciousness that he or she is engaging with fellow participants in prayer and eucharist, fellow readers of the same Scriptures; people in whom the same activity is going on, the activity of sanctifying grace. This is not in itself the conclusion of research (they are so much like us that they must be the same really), but the implication of the Christian’s basic belief that we are called into a fellowship held together not by human bonds but by association with Christ.” (Rowan Williams’ Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church )
As we learn and grow together this summer, remember that our history not only holds us together through facts but also through the shared practices of the saints and through the body of Christ himself. John Wesley talked searching the Scriptures – an action done with head and heart and spirit. This summer, I want us to search through our Church’s history together, and from our endeavors gaining knowledge and a deeper, shared faith.
Your sister in Christ,