Prepare your meeting room
1. Have Bibles available.
2. Prepare handout sheets or a display listing the questions saved from Session I. Be sure you use a method that enables every participant to read the questions during discussion.
3. Prepare a card with the quotation from Georges Khoder and ask a participant in advance to be ready to read it as requested.
Prepare for issues you may face during discussion.
1. Read one or more commentaries and Bible dictionaries for background on the biblical passages for this session.
2. Reflect on your own evaluation of the trip to another religious community and prepare yourself to lead discussion about it. Especially consider if there were theological issues, etiquette failures, misunderstandings, difficult interpersonal relationships, or other concerns that will require special debriefing. As necessary, seek an opportunity to talk with your contact person in the other community before you have your group discussion.
Hope and the Holy Spirit
Goals for this Session
To reflect on interreligious relationships, either through discussion of the visit with people of another religious tradition or through further attention to the relational "map" and questions of the group
To clarify our understanding of Gods sovereignty and the power of the Holy Spirit in regard to our lives among men and women of other faiths
Welcome and Opening Prayer
Open the session with prayer and the singing of a hymn, or with a brief liturgical service. Check in with each other: How is everyone?
Experience (30 minutes)
1. If you made a visit
Invite participants to form pairs and talk with each other about the visit you made:
What particularly caught your attention in the visit?
How did you feel about these things?
What did you learn?
What questions do you have now? (5 minutes each)
As participants form again into the larger group, distribute or display a list of the questions identified in the first session. Ask each participant to reflect in silence on how the experience of the visit addresses or changes these questions. (5 minutes) Next, ask the group to speak about the following questions and list responses on newsprint or a board: (15 minutes)
What have you learned?
What new questions do you have?
What previous questions might you want to change or modify?
As you engage in discussion of the questions, as appropriate, briefly summarize for participants the other remaining questions you have noted from your review of the cards and previous class sessions.
2. If you did not make a visit
Distribute or display a list of the questions identified in the first session. Ask each participant to reflect in silence on how, in light of this ongoing study series, she or he might now change or modify these questions. Briefly summarize the remaining questions you have noted from your review of the cards and previous class sessions, as appropriate. (5-10 minutes)
Look again at the relational "map" that the group made in Session II.
What do these people and places make possible for you?
What more do you want to know about them?
What concerns do you think would be shared by people in many or all faith groups?
Do you see ways in which these people and places could become more a part of something you are trying to do, or to understand?
Exploration and Reflection
1. Biblical Perspectives (30 minutes)
Read the following passages regarding the Holy Spirit:
John 15:26; 16:12-15 (The Spirit of truth)
John 3:1-10 (The spirit blows where it chooses)
Acts 2:1-13 (The Spirit enables understanding of Gods power)
Tell the group: Discerning the truth is always a difficult task. Not all Christians will be able to affirm every truth claim made by those within the Christian community. The faithful are called to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1). In the gospel of John, we read, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth."
How do we understand the illumination and understanding brought to us by the Spirit?
What does the freely moving and illimitable nature of the Spirit suggest to you about the possibility that the Spirit could be present in the experience of men and women of other religious traditions?
At an appropriate time in your discussion, ask a participant to read the perspective of the ecumenist, Georges Khoder, rooted in Orthodox theology:
God says, "This will happen in the last days. I will pour out upon everyone a portion of my spirit" (Acts 2:17) . The Spirit is present everywhere and fills everything by virtue of an economy distinct from that of the Son. The Spirit operates and applies his energy in accordance with his own economy, and we could from this angle regard the non-Christian religions as points where the Spirits inspiration is at work. And all who are visited by the Spirit are the people of God. (from G. Khoder, "Christianity in a Pluralistic Worldthe Economy of the Holy Spirit," in M. Kinnamon and B. Cope, edd., The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Press, 1997)
How do you respond to Khoders suggestion?
2. From the Policy Statement
As an extension of your biblical reflection, read and discuss the section on The Spirit of God and Human Hope from Interfaith Relations and the Churches, paragraphs 36-44, in Box 6. (15 minutes)
Ask the participants: What does the Holy Spirit have to do with how you/we relate to men and women of other faiths? (10 minutes)
For Next Time
Ask participants to bring an object with them to the next session that symbolizes one thing they find most nourishing in their experience of the Christian life.
Take a few minutes for comments. What are you learning that you wanted to know? What are you learning that you did not want to know?
Close with a prayer.