The Rev. Gay Rahn came to St. George’s in August 2005 as associate rector. Beginning in 2006, Gay plus a group of able commission leaders – Ed Jones, Co-chairs Connie Smith and Connie Brady and Russ Carter – provided the leadership that dramatically increased the diversity, numbers and depth of offerings.
Initially, the renovation from 2007-2009 reduced the attendance at the Sunday Adult sessions. However, from one location in Sydnor by the fall of 2009 there were four main tracks for education – family room, Faulkner hall, library and Tuesday dinners. Each area could have their own separate track. In 2008, Adult Education in the fall would follow two paths, Bible Study with Jim and Gay and a separate track in Faulkner Hall to consider social justice issues. The concept of Adult Education grew beyond just the Forum which was in Sydnor Hall
The Dannals years saw expansion of Adult education into the week beyond Sundays, including both “Thank God for Tuesdays and “Wonderful Wednesdays.”
Another significant change was the addition of the Lenten Weekends. Beginning with Suzanna Guthrie in 2010, speakers would be brought in for Saturday or Sunday Christian education sessions for the first Sunday of Lent.In some cases the speakers stayed beyond Sunday. Often on Sundays there was round table discussion. There was an emphasis on appealing to the community at large.
The most notable Lenten speaker was Marcus Borg in 2011. This was an obvious selection based on earlier Christian education sessions. Gay had a connection to Borg from her days in Memphis where the church she served thtat brought him in every year. The way had been plowed as early as 2005 with “Books by George” discussion of Borg’s book Heart of Christianity. In 2010 Russ Carter led a series on Borg’s “Embracing an Adult Faith”. Prior to Borg’s coming Carter led a provocative discussion “Marcus Borg: Theologian or Heretic”
Borg spoke at 9:55am on Sunday, March 13 and he was the preacher at 11am. He lectured March 13 and 14 at 7pm on Jesus and Christianity in the 21st century. Books were sold each evening to be autographed by Borg. He had a profound effect on the church. Weeks after he left St. George’s, Susie Morgan and Jeanette Cadwallender led a discussion Borg’s book, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
Borg was introduced as follows “Described by The New York Times as “a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars,” Marcus Borg is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, and past president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars. He is the author of 19 books, four of which have become best-sellers, including, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and The Heart of Christianity. Borg’s twentieth book, Speaking Christian, will be published in March 2011.” Lenten speakers in future years were Kate Braestrup in 2012, Michael Lee in 2014, Maureen Fiedler in 2015, Natalie Finstad in 2016, and Sathi Clarke in 2017.
The Visual Arts added to the diversity of presentations. They were often a part of the Lent and Advent Christian education. Nancy Heyward and Joanna Catron were featured from 2007-2013
- Eastern Art & Iconography in 2007
- Women Artists & the Church 2007
- Experiencing the Holy: Worship as Art 2008
- Anticipation and Expectation: Anna’s Story and the Birth of the Virgin 2009
- The Cross and Art 2011
- Religion and Art Mini Series 2011
- The Annunciation: Decoding a Pictorial Tradition, Legends of the Virgin in Art
- Healing our Images of God 2013 (With Tom Hughes)
Tom Hughes when he arrived in July, 2011 began the succession of weeknight Bible Study including the Gospel of John, Gospel of Luke and Genesis. His specialty was Centering Prayer which led to a permanent group that survived when he left St. George’s in June, 2013
Jim would lead discussion in his specialty the Enneagram beginning in 2006 and repeated down to the time he left in 2013.
It was described this way “The Enneagram is an ancient teaching that describes nine different personality styles or energies and their interrelationships. Early in life we learned to feel safe and cope with our family situations and personal circumstances by developing a strategy based on our natural talents and abilities. The Enneagram contains an inner dynamic that aims at change. It confronts us with compulsions or habits or trances under which we live – usually without being aware of it – and aims to invite us to break through them into a new awareness and a dynamic new way of living. Through the Enneagram, we can learn that ordinary patterns of personality, those very habits of heart and mind that we tend to dismiss as merely neurotic, are potential access points for inner transformation.”
Beginning in 2011 overall themes were designed for the Adult Education year:
Living Together 2011
Building Community and Living Together 2011-2012
Circles of Hope 2012
Notable in all of this was the increasing involvement of several parishioners such as in 2011 a multi-parts series on favorite Bible stories; these were led by various members of St. George’s.
There was an increasing number of multiple series involving Adult Education. Prominent was a series of “Great Spiritual Lives Series “from 2007-2009 and revived in 2012 through the book Dangerous Dozen. This included Hildegard, St. Francis, and Sojourner Truth. In 2013 there was a related series “Learning from Gods Dangerous People”. The author Rev. C.K. Robertson started off the latter series in January 2013.
A new series created by Spark House, “the Animate Series”. This included discussion of faith, the Bible and spiritual practices. It was designed to spark deeper discussion in these areas and led by prominent religious writers using short selection from religious writers, videos and the creation of reflection journals by participants.
In 2012, these were included –
God | Faith Is a Quest – Brian McLaren
Religion | Spirituality Is Not Enough – Lillian Daniel
Jesus | The Revolution of Love – Mark Scandrette
Salvation | Abundant Life Now – Shane Hipps
Cross | Where God Is – Nadia Bolz-Weber
Bible | A Book Like No Other – Lauren Winner
Church | An Imperfect Family – Bruce Reyes-Chow
Adult education also was diversity including leaders from other faiths. In 2013, this included people of faith with Rabbi Devorah Lynn (a three-week study of the ancient Hebraic interpretation of many of the well-known stories in the Old Testament), Munira El-Bearny of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg and Mr. Ajaib Singh of the Sikh Foundation of Virginia. There was an increasing number of professors leading sessions from the University of Mary Washington as well as other institutions in Virginia and Washington DC
In Feb., 2013, the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led a service of Repentance to Hope. This service was planned by the Diocese Committee on Race and Reconciliation and hosted by St. George’s on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Adult Education provided the ground work for this event. This three-week program, from Miss Julia to a celebration of freedom and hope began with Kathryn Willis leading the effort to bring two Sunday programs with a reprisal of Miss Julia, a program originally offered at Shiloh Baptist Old Site. Then St. George’s hosted a Local Civic Leaders Panel: Civil Rights in Fredericksburg: Recollections of Our Town in the 1960s and ’70s. For the remainder of this year, our program begins with a reflection on Emancipation weekend, and then continues with a variety of events, such as the visit of the Burundi choir from Fredericksburg Baptist Church,
By 2013, there was a separate tract on just studying the lectionary led by Pete and Colleen Schiefelbein. Connected were small group adult education meeting in parishioners’ homes from Susie and David Morgan and Kitty and Ben Wafle. There was a group that met on Sunday afternoons that discussed Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner, who led us a discussion of the forgotten images of God in the Bible
Some of the most popular events were on Pastoral care. An example is the series led by Mike Fray “Depression and Loss:The Role of the Christian Family” in 2008. The last session included a discussion from parishioners on how depression affected them. He followed in up with the subject of anxiety in one of the most stressful times of year, Christmas during 2008. In 2013, there were two sessions on Medical Decision-Making. Also various hospice workers provide sessions on Hospice 101.