Prepare your meeting room
1. Display the map you prepared during Session II.
2. Arrange an area in your meeting room for posting the cards participants bring from home, as assigned in Session II. Plan a way to differentiate the cards with questions and those that applaud ideas.
3. Have Bibles distributed for use.
4. Prepare information and instruction handouts, if you are planning to visit another religious group as your next group activity:
a. As you meet with community leaders of the other religion, collect some basic self definitions and information about basic beliefs and practices that they will consider appropriate for you to supply to your members.
b. Ask the religious communitys leaders about etiquette for your visit and/or arrange instructions taken from a resource such as How to Be a Perfect Stranger (see closing item in bibliography ). Remember that others may assume certain behaviors that you do not understand (e.g., forms of dress, appropriate posture for standing or sitting, patterns of speech or quiet) and may not mention important concerns, especially if they are not accustomed to receiving guests.
5. Decide how you will make the material in Box 4 available, through passing out copies or having participants bring Interfaith Relations and the Churches to your meeting. If you will have the material read aloud, ask someone in advance. Alternately, all participants may review the material silently.
Prepare for issues you may face during discussion.
1. In the previous session, you mapped the religious picture of your community, which you viewed from a geographic perspective. For this session, be ready to emphasize the human community brought into being by Gods acts of creation. You may wish to find your own quotation about this for use during the Biblical Perspectives section (see below). (Be aware that, if you look up references to "community" in a Bible dictionary or similar resource, you may find materials describing the covenant community brought about by Gods salvific acts rather than the human community formed by Gods creative acts. New Bible translations, such as the Contemporary English Version (CEV) published by the American Bible Society, use the word "community" applied to the "community of Israel" and, minimally, the community that is the church. You will need to distinguish carefully between the forms of community as you lead discussion in this session. Do not raise issues about these various forms unless necessary.)
2. Read one or more commentaries and Bible dictionaries for background on the biblical passages for this session
3. Be prepared to read the posted theological questions as they arrive to be sure that there are no concerns best handled during this session on human community. Otherwise, be ready to deal with the cards questions in future sessions. Read participants selections of ideas to applaud to get a sense of where the groups thinking is.
God and Human Community
Goals for this session:
To explore our understandings of community
To reflect on the significance of Gods creation of humanity for our relations with men and women of other religious traditions
Welcome and Opening
As group members arrive, invite them to post any cards they have prepared in response to your invitation in the previous sessions homework assignment. Other participants may want to read the cards as they are posted. Do not attempt to discuss the content of the questions at this time but thank those who brought cards, indicating you will study them carefully.
Follow your established means of opening with worship or prayer. You may want to use a prayer that speaks about love of neighbor.
Experience (25 minutes)
Ask each person to turn to another person sitting nearby and quickly to share one specific image, or one story, that expresses their experience of community at its most meaningful level. (Do not offer definitions of community as you assign this work in pairs.) (5 minutes)
Call the group together to share insights. You may wish to write highlights of the discussion on a blackboard or flip chart, as a means of visualizing the conversation.
What are the elements that make up, or mark, community for you?
What are the kinds of actions that bring about community?
How important is community in our lives? To our faith? (20 minutes)
Exploration and Reflection
1. Biblical Perspectives (15 minutes)
Read Genesis 1:26-31. Recall that Gods act of creation has been explicitly connected with the concept of community in such places as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Brief Statement of Faith, which reads, "In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God's image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community." (You may use another quotation, as available, if it better meets the ecclesial identity of your participants.) Do you agree that all people, because of their creation in Gods image, are equal in Gods sight? What are the implications of your answer? If you do not agree, what kind of differences do you see?
Read Luke 12:15-32. Ask, In what does ones life consist? The Lukan passage suggests that our main concern should be the establishment of Gods reign ("the kingdom of God"). Does living in this waymaking this ones primary commitmentreflect what it means to be made in the image of God? What else does our creation in the image of God imply about us?
2. From the Policy Statement (30 minutes)
Continue your exploration by reading the section of Interfaith Relations and the Churches on God and Human Community (Box 4). Discuss your responses to the section, in light of your biblical reflection:
What do you think the stature of being made in Gods image means about the capabilities of every individual?
Does being made in the image of God serve as a basis for your understanding of how people should treat each other?
Do you agree that Gods will is for community?
Response (20 minutes)
Discuss further questions in light of your explorations of the biblical passages and the policy statement:
What kinds of communities do we want to build? How will men and women of other religious traditions be part of them?
Do women and men of other faiths have things to tell us about God as well as about human nature? Why?
What should be our goals in relating to people of other religions?
For Next Time
If the group will make a visit to a "congregation" of another faith tradition, this will best occur before one of the next two regular sessions. (See planning notes in this guide.) Make clear to participants where they will be going, where they are to meet, and when. Talk about any questions concerning etiquette of visitation that may require attention. Distribute basic introductory material about the practice and beliefs of the host community, and appropriate etiquette, for participants to read in preparation for the visit.
Invite participants to read the section on Jesus Christ and Reconciliation, paragraphs 30-35, in Interfaith Relations and the Churches.
Close with a hymn of the groups choice and/or a prayer.