Woodbrooke is a study centre in Selly Oak,. Brimingham, with a learning programme designed to inform and motivate Quakers, those of other faiths or none. The following courses are a mixture of online, onsite (in Selly Oak) and away at their partner venue Swarthmoor Hall in the Lake District.
1. Living in the Heart of Christianity (Online Retreat, 3 Sep – 12 Oct)
This is a 6-week online retreat with inspiration from Marcus J. Borg’s The Heart of Christianity. How can we live passionately today by practicing timeless elements of Christian faith? It is an opportunity to reflect on and incorporate into daily life themes of the heart: faith, practise, opening, rebirth and justice. It can speak to those who struggle to identify with the Christian tradition as well as to those approaching the tradition ‘again for the first time’.
2. ‘That your love may overflow’: Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Online, 5 – 26 Sep)
This is a letter of encouragement. You know the gift of life you have received, says Paul, now live it to the full. ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, pure, pleasing, commendable, if there is any excellence, anything worth of praise, think on these things. … Rejoice!’ Challenging theology and practical counsel intermingle in a rich expression of early Christian life. With four webinars and recommended reading we will open up the world of this remarkable short text.
3. Early Christianity (Swarthmoor Hall, 14 – 16 Sep)
Christianity spread rapidly throughout the first century. While communities were in contact with each other through letters and travelling teachers, they nevertheless each developed in distinctive ways. They preserved their own memories of Jesus but, more importantly, they came to different understandings about him. Scripture provides clear evidence of a significant level of conflict between these groups. It is a fascinating and lively picture which we will explore by focusing on particular examples that can reveal what was at stake
4. ‘Into the Actual Presence of God’: The Letter to the Hebrews (Woodbrooke, 8 – 11 Oct)
In Hebrews, ideas from Greek and Jewish thought get dramatically reshaped in the light of the experiences of the first Christians. Guest speaker Stuart Masters will show how early Friends drew on Hebrews, finding their own encounters with the divine confirmed in its affirmation of faith beyond religious forms. The unusual approach of its unknown writer enables us to look afresh at some central Christian themes, in particular, the way Jesus was understood in the time before doctrine became fixed.
5. The Early Christian Breakthrough (Woodbrooke, 2 – 4 Nov)
At the heart of early Christianity is a breakthrough, an experience of expansion into new possibilities. In the New Testament this experience is described as a manifestation of the Spirit, God’s creative power, operating in a new and unexpected way. People felt inspired, able to step out beyond the boundaries that had previously determined how they lived. This course explores both this breakthrough but also the realities that had limited it even before the writing of the New Testament documents.