This Lent, for four weeks, I am facilitating a small faith group for my parish, Christ the King. Now, I have to begin by telling you that this is not my prayer group or any kind of insular little group that has been meeting for years. Our small groups are “pop-up” in nature—we do them for four weeks, several times per year and people sign up for them not knowing who they will be thrown together with. This year, we have six groups meeting on various days of the week—some in homes, others at the rectory, one in the preschool room (for parents with little kids), and one in a neighborhood coffee house—with a total of nearly 70 participants, which is great for a small parish.
The experience has been extraordinary! It is amazing what the Holy Spirit can do when a few people get together in Jesus’ name! Above is a picture from week one of our group. Here are a few highlights of what made the experience so extraordinary.
- The two elderly gentlemen in front were the most joyful men you’d ever want to meet. One of them asked for prayers as he was still mourning the loss of his wife, who passed away a month ago on their 58th wedding anniversary. The other asked for prayers for his wife who is in hospice. Both expressed how thankful they were to be able to come and spend time and share faith with fellow Christians during their difficult times. What an inspiration!
- The gentleman to my right as you look at the picture talked about how he came back to the Church after years of being away and did so because of his kids attending a Catholic school.
- We talked about the Gospel story of Jesus being tempted in the desert and what it means for us to place our trust in God each and every day. The level of sharing for six people who didn’t all know one another coming in was extraordinary and quite inspiring.
- The fact that we were in a public place (a neighborhood coffee house) meant that our gathering was an opportunity to publicly but humbly witness to our faith. Sure enough, a woman who stopped in for a coffee noticed our participant sheets on our table as she passed and asked, “Are you doing Bible study?” We said yes and explained that we were from Christ the King Catholic Church and were meeting during Lent for four weeks. She said she was from the nearby Lutheran church. We invited her to join us, but she said she couldn’t because she was moving her mother out of her home and into a nursing facility that day and stopped in to get the caffeine she desperately needed to cope with the stress of the day. We asked her to tell us her mother’s name and assured her of our prayers, for which she was very grateful.
- We finished by sharing what we hope to do this Lent in order to grow closer to our Lord and, again, it was so inspiring—especially to hear the two elderly gentlemen talk about how we need not just to give things up but to go out of our ways to help those in need. The rest of us could have sat and listened to their wisdom the rest of the day. What a gift!
- We met for nearly 90 minutes, and we all left feeling filled with the Spirit and ready to venture forth into our days, bringing the Good News of the Lord to those we encountered.
I continue to believe that small faith groups are at the heart of any attempt to create authentic adult faith formation in our parishes, and I am thankful to be experiencing it firsthand!