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!


Online Adult Education Opportunities

Prayer: The Heartbeat of Christian Faith

Foundations of Faith: 
An Hour with the Bible and the Fourth Church Clergy

First Tuesday Book Club

Past Adult Education Classes

Zoom Bible Studies

Course Recommendations and Proposals

Contact Us | Child Care

Prayer: The Heartbeat of Christian Faith

Sundays, November 15–December 6, 2020
9:30 a.m.
via Zoom

To receive Zoom details, register online here.

For the next four weeks David Handley, Interim Minister for Caring Ministries, will lead a class on Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer.

Fosdick was the founding pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, serving there from 1930 to 1946. His classic book on prayer, formatted as a ten-week daily devotional, is aimed at the common seeker and the believer longing to deepen their personal connection with God. Each day has three parts: (1) a scripture that introduces the author’s reflections on the experience of God in prayer; (2) Fosdick’s reflections on the struggles and satisfactions in praying; and (3) a classic prayer from one of the great voices through the history of Christianity.

Likewise, each week’s class will have three parts: a scripture reading on prayer; a 20-minute teaching on a particular aspect of prayer; and a guided discussion between class participants and the teacher.

Participants will want to have available a copy of Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer, which is available from online vendors.

To watch recordings of previous class sessions, click here.

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Foundations of Faith: 
An Hour with the Bible and the Fourth Church Clergy

Sundays at 12:30 p.m.
via Zoom

To receive Zoom details, register online here.

This fall, members of the Fourth Church pastoral staff will continue our Foundations of Faith Bible study via Zoom. Each pastor will host a three-week thematic exploration of biblical texts, offer thoughtful analysis, and lead participants in engaging discussion. 

November 22, December 6 and 13 (no class on Thanksgiving weekend)
“Scriptural Journeys: The Enduring Power of Migrations in the Bible”
with Joe Morrow
To watch recordings of previous class sessions, click here.


Past Foundations of Faith Classes

“Knowing God, Loving God, Serving God” with David Handley
October 4, 2020
To watch a recording of this class, click here.

“Varying Voices of the Prophets: Cries for Justice, Lamentation,
and Consolation”
with Jeffrey Doane
October 11 and 25, 2020
To watch recordings of this two-week class, click here.

“From Pentecost to Constantine: How the Early Church Grew”
with Matt Helms

November 1, 8, and 15, 2020
To watch recordings of this three-week class, click here.

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First Tuesday Book Club

This fall the Adult Education committee is launching a new program dedicated to examining the ethical and social issues facing Christians today. This is not just a book club, it is a forum for thinking Christians and others to wrestle with the complexities of living as faithful people in today's confusing world. Join us as we examine the joys, challenges, and consequences of faith.

To receive Zoom details, register online here.

Tuesdays, November 10 and December 1

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
Discussion led by Nanette Sawyer
7:00–8:00 p.m. via Zoom

The symbols of the cross and the lynching tree resonate strongly through generations in the faith of African Americans. In this powerful work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in history and religion. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, sends a powerful message that God is with them, even in the face of violent oppression. (Because the first Tuesday of November is Election Day, our first session will meet on the second Tuesday of the month, November 10.)

To watch a recording of the November 10 session, click here.

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Past Adult Education Classes

We encourage you to explore—or revisit, if you already attended the classes—the videos from the courses we offered earlier this year!

Women in the Book of Judges

We were honored to have Dr. Steed Davidson lead us in an exploration of “Women in the Book of Judges.” Dr. Davidson is Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs at McCormick Theological Seminary, where he is also Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. An ordained elder within the United Methodist Church, he is the author of Empire and Exile: Postcolonial Readings of Selected Texts of the Book of Jeremiah, as well as Writing/Reading the Bible in Postcolonial Perspective. He also serves on the editorial boards of Biblical Interpretation and Black Theology: An International Journal.

To watch all five sessions of “Women in the Book of Judges,” click here.

The Great Divide: Inequity within Chicago Public Schools

The average SAT score for Whitney Young High School students is 1286; for Harlan High students it is 773. Yet these youth are all part of the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. Why is there such great disparity among CPS schools? What needs to happen for all CPS students to get a high-quality education? What is our responsibility as Chicagoans and as part of the Fourth Church community?

In this series we hear from Derrick Dawson (Co-Program Coordinator, Chicago Regional Organizing Against Racism), Maurice Swinney (Chief Equity Officer, Chicago Public Schools), and Cassie Burke (Bureau Chief for the Chicago edition of Chalkbeat).

To watch recordings of all three sessions, click here.

Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions

The history many of us learned about our country and institutions—including churches—often overlooks the contributions, perspectives, and experiences of African Americans. This series highlights several aspects of history in the United States to help viewers gain a more complete picture of who and what has shaped our faith communities.

To watch “Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions,” click here.

Foundations of Faith: A Year with the Bible

This series, led by Fourth Church clergy, gives viewers the opportunity to explore the biblical narrative of our Jewish and Christian heritage, focusing on passages that chronicle this faith journey. Each session considers a passage in its historical setting and addresses how the passage is relevant to the contemporary world. Each session is self-contained, so watch as many sessions as you like, or the whole series!

To watch “Foundations of Faith: A Year with the Bible,” click here.

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Zoom Bible Studies

  • Horizons Women's Bible Study, based on the guide from Horizons magazine, meets on Zoom at 12:00 noon on second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
  • Men's Bible Study meets on Zoom every Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m.

For more information about joining either of these studies, contact Anne Ellis.

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

    Michael Mirza
    Director of Worship


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.