Academy for Faith and Life

Welcome to the Academy for Faith and Life, an anchor component of Fourth Presbyterian Church’s adult education program. Through this program we provide short-term and ongoing education for our members, friends of the church, and the wider community.

The Adult Education Committee is committed to offering learning opportunities that invite participants to engage in a range of study options. You will find biblical and theological offerings for those who have years of prolonged study as well as for those who know little about Christian theology or the Bible. Some of the courses integrate issues of social and ethical importance with Christian principles and values. There are classes on spiritual development and practice and others that consider arts and culture. No matter your particular interests, we trust the Academy’s offerings will provide opportunities for growth and Christian community.

Look below for more information about this season's Academy for Faith and Life opportunities!


2020 Adult Education Opportunities

Foundation of Faith: A Year with the Bible
A Bible Study with the Pastors of Fourth Church

Sundays, January 12–March 29, April 19–May 10 at 9:30 a.m.

From St. Paul to C. S. Lewis:
Revisiting Repentance through the Lens of Conversion

Sundays March 1–22 at 11:00 a.m.

The Soul of America: The Battle of Our Better Angels
Sundays, March 15–29 at 9:30 a.m.

Local Perspectives on Environmental Racism
Sundays, March 29, April 5, and April 19 at 11:00 a.m.

God in a Cubicle: Exploring the Sacred Calling
inside a Secular Workplace

Sundays, May 3 and 10 at 11:00 a.m.

Bible Studies | Newsletter
Course Recommendations and Proposals

Contact Us | Child Care

Foundation of Faith: A Year with the Bible
A Bible Study with the Pastors of Fourth Church

Sundays, January 12–March 29
(No class April 5 or 12)
Sundays, April 19–May 10
9:30 a.m.
Room 5G

Click here to view previous sessions of this Bible study

“The Church confesses the Scriptures to be the Word of God, written, witnessing to God’s self-revelation.” (Book of Order, W-2.2001)

For Presbyterians, this statement from our Book of Order establishes the priority of the Bible for guiding people of faith. To help strengthen understanding of and engagement with this foundation of our faith, Fourth Church’s clergy have committed to offering a weekly Bible study through the Academy of Faith and Life. The intent of this series is to give participants, over the course of the program year, the opportunity to explore the biblical narrative of our Jewish and Christian heritage, focusing on passages that chronicle this faith journey. Each week we will consider a passage in its historical setting and address questions related to its meaning when it was written. We will also take time to think about how the passage is relevant to the contemporary world that Christians inhabit now. In addition, we will provide occasional opportunities for a comprehensive “sweep” of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

All are welcome to this class—whether you are unfamiliar with the Bible or you are a biblical scholar! In addition, each class is self-contained, so if you miss a week you will not be lost. The text passages for each week are on the following page for those who want to read along or prepare beforehand.

The Associate Pastors and Parish Associate of Fourth Church will rotate responsibility for teaching this class.

March 1: New Testament overview* – Matt Helms
March 8: Luke 19 – Rocky Supinger
March 15: John 13 – David Handley
March 22: Mark 15 – Nanette Sawyer
March 29: Luke 24 – Lucy Forster-Smith
April 5: Palm Sunday Break—no class
April 12: Easter Break—no class
April 19: Acts 2 – Joe Morrow
April 26: 1 Corinthians 12
May 3: Romans 8
May 10: Revelation 21

*The Old and New Testament overview courses are intended to condense the historical and theological content of the Foundations of Faith series into a single hour (as best they can!). These courses briskly cover the overarching direction and themes contained within each testament, along with stages of development and the broader context of the society in which they were written.

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From St. Paul to C. S. Lewis:  Revisiting Repentance through the Lens of Conversion

With Casie Dodd

Sundays, March 1–22 (4 weeks)
11:00 a.m.
Room 5G

The idea of conversion is often associated with a singular defining conversion moment. Yet for many of us raised in the church this is not our experience. The history of Reformed Christianity in particular has struggled with this concept as it has attempted to reconcile notions of “predestination” with a merciful God and personal responsibility for faith. However, a broader view of the experience of conversion may pave a way for us to better see the ongoing work of God in our lives across our personal and communal faith journeys.

This class will explore biblical and modern examples of converts to Christianity to help participants engage with this multifaceted concept as it applies to individual lives and grounds the major tenets of our faith.

Week 1: Overview of conversion, including Old and New Testament biblical passages and theological review

Week 2: Biblical case studies such as the Apostles, Saul/Paul, and the early church in Acts

Week 3: Historical models of conversion such as St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day

Week 4: Personal applications for a deeper view of the ongoing conversion process as it is lived by grace through faith

Casie Dodd is a writer and educator living on the North Side of Chicago. She has taught in many forms for several years and is a recent convert to Catholicism after a lifelong immersion in Protestant communities. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of Tulsa and formerly served on the Adult Education staff at Fourth Church.

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John Meacham’s The Soul of America:
The Battle of Our Better Angels

With Jeff Doane

Sundays, Sundays, March 15–29 (3 weeks)
9:30 a.m.
Room 5E

In a tumultuous election year in our nation, how are we to respond as faithful citizens? Discussion of John Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle of Our Better Angels provides us with a needed historical perspective.

This class will consider selected chapters in our quest for insights into a hopeful, rather than fearful, approach to the topic.

Jeff Doane is the Parish Associate for Older Adults at Fourth Presbyterian Church and Pastor Emeritus at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, where he was the pastor for twenty-seven years.

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Local Perspectives on Environmental Racism

With Naomi Davis, Celeste Flores, and Kerri Allen

Sundays, March 29, April 5, and April 19 (3 weeks)
11:00 a.m.
Room 5G

This series will examine the concept of environmental racism: the disproportionate impact of environmental harm to communities of color. In three sessions, representatives from both religious and activist groups will present information on the environmental challenges facing local communities. They will explore the impact of environmental injustice and examine how faith and faith communities play a role in understanding and righting injustices, highlighting how faith and community organizations are working to find solutions. They will help participants understand the actions they can take to help address environmental racism and injustice in Chicago and beyond.

Naomi Davis is the president and founder of Blacks in Green. She is an urban theorist, attorney, activist, and proud granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers. Naomi served on Governor Pritzker’s transition team, Powering Illinois’ Future; on Mayor Emanuel’s transition team for Energy, Environment, and Public Space; and was selected as a sustainability thought leader at Groupon’s First Annual Chicago Ideas Week.

Celeste Flores is cochair of Clean Power Lake County and Lake County Outreach Director for Faith in Place. She works to engage faith communities in Waukegan and throughout Lake County in caring for the earth. In November 2019, Celeste participated in a Senate hearing organized by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis about the ways climate change uniquely impacts environmental justice communities.

Kerri Allen is an ordained Presbyterian pastor and the cochair of the PC(USA)’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI). She also serves as vice-chair of the PC(USA)’s Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns. Through her denominational responsibilities Kerri helps direct the General Assembly’s investment policy to promote pursuit of peace; racial, social, and economic justice; environmental responsibility; and securing women’s rights.

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God in a Cubicle:
Exploring the Sacred Calling inside a Secular Workplace

With Lois Snavely

Sundays, May 3 and 10 (2 weeks)
11:00 a.m.
Room 5G

What does it mean to be called by God to a world of “secular” service? What are the unique challenges faced by Spirit-filled people in the workplace? And how can we bring the sacred into the secular without isolating ourselves? Is there a place for calling or vocation even if it means being called to work outside of the church or a congregational setting? Can ministry happen outside of a worship service?

We’ll wrestle with these questions and more as we explore what it means to be what the Apostle Paul calls “tentmakers,” serving God in secular workplaces. Utilizing resources from a variety of thinkers, we’ll look at topics such as moral injury in the workplace, combatting individualism and greed, and the differences between trying to create a personally fulfilling “Christian work environment” and infusing systems and structures where we work with justice and liberation.

Bring your stories, your struggles, and your joys into this space as we journey together, exploring our secular work through a spiritual lens.

Lois Snavely is a Master of Divinity student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Hyde Park and a candidate for ordination within the United Church of Christ. She is currently the seminary intern at Fourth Presbyterian Church, and she is a regular member at University Church of Chicago. Lois is currently employed full-time as a creative project manager for a tech company, where she brings her eye for operations and her love of pastoring people into the secular workplace.

Academy Newsletter

To receive periodic email updates from the Academy for Faith and Life, send email addresses to

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Course Recommendations and Proposals

Suggestions for future course offerings can be submitted to or dropped off at the church reception desk.

Please use this Recommendation Form if you have an idea for a class or speaker; use this Proposal Form if you would like to submit a class of your own for consideration.

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Staff and Contact Information

    Lucy Forster-Smith
    Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

    Allison Santos
    Adult Education Program Assistant


Contact Information
   • general questions or requests for information,
   • requests for class tapes,
   • evaluative comments,
   • suggestions for courses and speakers

—please contact the Academy office at

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Child Care

On Sunday mornings: Childcare for infants up to age two is available in the Nursery from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Sunday School classes for all other children are offered at both 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. from September through May. For information about Sunday School and children’s and family programs, contact Matt Helms at 312.573.3362.

On weekdays
: To arrange childcare for weekday courses or events, contact Matt Helms (312.573.3362) at least one week prior to the event.

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View the Academy for Faith and Life calendar here.