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

The Great Divide:
A Look at Inequity within Chicago Public Schools

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

First Tuesday Book Club

Adult Education Video Archive

Zoom Bible Studies

Course Recommendations and Proposals

Contact Us | Child Care


The Great Divide:
   A Look at Inequity within Chicago Public Schools

Sundays, September 20 and 27 and October 4
9:30 a.m.
via Zoom

To receive Zoom details, register online here

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?

If you’re willing to start off the program year with a challenging series, this is it! We’re thrilled to have a lineup of great speakers who will share their wisdom on the subject of inequity in the Chicago Public School system.

Sunday, September 20
Derrick Dawson, Co-Program Coordinator, Chicago Regional Organizing Against Racism

Institutional and systemic racism is at the root of inequity in Chicago Public Schools. Derrick Dawson will not only delve into the historical context of racial disparities in education but will also share his lived reality and experience of growing up on Chicago’s South Side. 

Sunday, September 27
Maurice Swinney, Chief Equity Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Dr. Maurice Swinney, a former teacher and high school principal, is charged with moving CPS closer to achieving educational equity for all students. Dr. Swinney will explain why policies and programs throughout CPS need to be examined for inequities as well as how potential strategies could minimize gaps in resources, staffing, and high-quality academic programming.

Sunday, October 4    
Cassie Burke, Bureau Chief for the Chicago edition of Chalkbeat

Chalkbeat is a fiercely independent news organization committed to covering stories impacting the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education. Cassie Burke will share her insights on some of the specific challenges CPS faces at this time.

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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. 

This Sunday, September 20, join us via Zoom for our first session!

September 20 and 27 and October 4
“Knowing God, Loving God, Serving God” with David Handley

October 11, 18, and 25
“Varying Voices of the Prophets: Cries for Justice, Lamentation, and Consolation”
with Jeffrey Doane

November 1, 8, and 15
“From Pentecost to Constantine: How the Early Church Grew” with Matt Helms

November 22, December 6 and 13 (no class on Thanksgiving weekend)
“Scriptural Journeys: The Enduring Power of Migrations in the Bible”
with Joe Morrow

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First Tuesday Book Club

This fall the Adult Education committee is organizing a remote book club, specializing in nonfiction titles that we have found especially thought-provoking. Join us via Zoom for a moderated discussion of these scintillating reads.

October 6
Grace from the Rubble by Jeanne Bishop
7:30 p.m. via Zoom

Join author and Fourth Church member Jeanne Bishop as she tells a story of pain and forgiveness in the aftermath of one of America's greatest tragedies. According to the publisher, “Jeanne Bishop's powerful new book tells the heart-stirring story of how the father of a young woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing and the father of her killer, Timothy McVeigh, forged an unlikely friendship and found forgiveness.”

November 3
The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor
7:30 p.m. via Zoom

Lucy Forster-Smith will lead a journey into this exploration of how science and religion became separated in the public imagination. Taylor explores chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and other scientific breakthroughs for their connections with the poetry, ambiguity, and mystery that are found in most religions.

December 1
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
7:30 p.m. via Zoom

The symbols of the cross and the lynching tree resonate both historically and spiritually with African Americans. Nanette Sawyer will lead a discussion of Cone's book, which explores how these symbols interact and mutually inform one another, and how events of injustice and pain can still inspire hope.

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Adult Education Video Archive

While we are not gathering for adult education classes in these weeks, we encourage you to explore—or revisit, if you already attended the classes—the videos from two of the courses we offered earlier this year: the important and eye-opening “Black History: Impact on Our Faith Traditions” course taught by a marvelous faculty of outside lecturers and the engaging “Foundation of Faith: A Year with the Bible” class, which was led by our pastoral staff.

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.


Foundation 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 “Foundation 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

    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.