‘This class is special’ | Anabaptist world


The discipleship class at Grantham Brethren in Christ Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania has an unbroken 50-year tradition. When COVID-19 shut everything down in March 2020, we were in the middle of a study of the Psalms.

We switched to Zoom and stayed there until August 2021. Zoom proved to be a haven for introverts like me. For reasons that are difficult to explain, it was easier for me to participate in the discussion via Zoom.

People have joined us who could never have joined in person – from places like North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. A beloved former pastor now living in Florida became our class chaplain, reading the scriptures and praying for an ever-growing list of requests.

When we are in church, the class lasts an hour. But on Zoom some of us sometimes spent close to two hours together.

Our manager launched a Facebook page for recordings, discussions and further reading during the week.

At Grantham, we haven’t used ‘Sunday School’ language for over a decade. When the change was announced – from Sunday School to Learning Communities – some of us scoffed. I still sometimes come back to the traditional term.

But over the past two years, thanks to Zoom, we’ve really become a learning community. We are a group of people who have found a way, in the midst of the disruption and isolation of a pandemic, to come together and learn, even about difficult topics like complicity in racism.

The habits we started on Zoom have continued: collecting prayer requests each week, using poetry and technology. On Zoom, teachers could use video or PowerPoint, which in person had always been a hassle to organize. But we asked for and received a smart TV, which we now use regularly.

We are taking advantage of this technology in our current study of the parables of Jesus. Use of Greg Carey’s book Stories Told by Jesus: How to Read a Parable, we watched videos of Carey explaining parables, listened to other scholars (including a Jewish New Testament scholar), and watched excerpts of sermons from different Christian traditions. We have tried to apply the parables not only to our personal lives but also to the way we do church in Grantham.

Our class is a testament to perseverance. Amid changing ideas about what Sunday School should be, our little community persists in learning together to be disciples of Jesus.
As one of our newest class members said, “This class is special.”

Harriet Sider Bicksler is retired from a career as a writer and editor and is still the editor of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society.


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