Growing in relationship with God is the work of a lifetime. To grow in faith we are called to develop hearts and minds that are more finely attuned to the presence of God. At times it calls us to take risks and explore new and untried paths. To deepen our spiritual journey we offer several opportunities for Christian education, spiritual direction, contemplative practices, and small group experiences. As the metaphor of the labyrinth tells us, our spiritual paths are not linear, but they all lead us to the heart of God.
Adult Christian Education
An active faith is an informed faith. At First Congregational Church we approach the bible with our hearts and our minds, taking scripture seriously, but not literally. Throughout the year we engage in bible study, book discussion, special lecture series, and films. Each of these events are open to all members and friends, and all viewpoints are encouraged. We can’t promise answers, but we can guarantee good questions and lively conversation!
- Wednesday Faith Exploration Series —held in the fall and spring, we gather for a series of thought and faith provoking conversations on living out our faith. Our current series is called What We Need Now: Habits of the Heart to Heal a Fractured World. Using the book Healing the Heart of the Democracy by Parker Palmer, we will explore the five habits of heart that we must cultivate to navigate this challenging political moment. The class is held Wednesday evenings from 7:30-9pm in the library from September 14 – Oct 12. All are welcome.
- “Slow-Motion” Bible Study! Sunday mornings from 9:15 too 10:15 in the church library. We will be taking a very slow, long-term dive into our sacred Scriptures. These writings and teachings are so rich, so multi-layered, that they deserve the deepest possible understanding. This is not a short-term event, it’s intended to be an on-going effort that is open at any time to anyone interested in this topic and this work. Bring a Bible (any version, any translation), a notebook and a pen. Perfect for anyone who has ever studied the Bible or those who simply want to know how to begin – and everyone in between. Facilitated by Jack Cuffari. Questions? See Jack (email@example.com).
- First Cong & Union Cong Collaborative “Still Speaking” Lecture Series October 27, 2016– 7:30pm. Held at Union Cong—176 Cooper Ave in Montclair. See link on top right side of this page for more information.
- Women’s Soul Circle
An active faith is also a transformed faith. Beginning in September a small group will gather together to explore a special kind of spiritual small group based on the “Circle of Trust” retreat work of Parker Palmer. These counter-cultural attempts to silence our external voices and experience the “inner teacher” (that which we call the soul) will meet every 2nd Saturday morning from 9:00 – 11:00am from September through June. We will be gathering our group in August, so if you are interested in learning more, please see Rev. Ann.
- Spiritual Direction: Working with Jack Cuffari
“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner
Spiritual Direction (also called Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Life Counseling, Spiritual Friendship, Faith Care, and Compassionate Listening) is a process of working one-on-one with another person to find a deeper intimacy with God and a greater connection to one’s own sacred nature. My approach to Spiritual Life Counseling is based on the Quaker model, which is called “Compassionate Listening”. By practicing active, compassionate listening I am able to be a companion on your spiritual journey to wholeness and acceptedness. I have been doing this work for about 15 years, starting as an Ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, and then as a Compassionate Listener within the regional Quaker community.
Along with Compassionate Listening I utilize Queries, open-ended questions that provide plenty of relevant and constructive food for thought and room for personal spiritual growth. These questions are an ideal focal point for meditation, prayer or journaling. There is no judgment or agenda: I never promote a particular spiritual path or faith-based doctrine. I believe that each individual is on her or his own path, and that each is integrally connected to the ‘bigger picture’ beyond one’s ego: that which is infinite and eternal. I simply hold open the doors to wholeness, self-acceptance and understanding that are already right there in front of you!
This work occurs in monthly one-to-one sessions, for which there is a fee (but are complimentary to Members and ‘friends’ of FCC.) Let’s sit together and share your questions and experiences of what you find meaningful – and what you find puzzling. Speak your mind, speak what’s on your heart – I’m here to listen and accompany you on your journey back to your authentic, sacred self. Learn to make space for God in your life. Your life will never be the same, and you’ll know that it was your own heart and your own devotion that brought you back to the Divine that dwells within your true, authentic self.
- Wednesday Evening Labyrinth Walks 6:00-8:00pm September – July in the FCC sanctuary (closed for holidays)
The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool , a mode of “walking prayer” that invites us to go deeper in our walk with God. Our labyrinth, modeled on one in Chartes Cathedral in France, was created in our Sanctuary this summer. Beginning in September it will be open for weekly walking. It is open to all and beginners are welcome.
Check out this lovely write up on Baristanet in the Spring 2014 http://baristanet.com/2014/03/labyrinth-walk-meditation-satisfies-soul/
Video introduction to “Rediscovering the Labyrinth” the story of those who have been transformed along the path, and an invitation to you to join the dance.
Video Credit: The Labyrinth Project at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco