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

On Restoring God’s Beloved Community:
Looking for Guidance in Scripture

First Tuesday Book Club

Path of Discipleship

Past Adult Education Classes

Zoom Bible Studies

Course Recommendations and Proposals

Contact Us | Child Care


On Restoring Gods Beloved Community:
   Looking for Guidance in Scripture

with Carol Allen

Sunday, January 24–February 28
9:30 a.m.
via Zoom
To watch previous sessions, click here.

To receive Zoom details, register online here.

Our starting point for this course is the struggle of Jews and Gentiles to create a uniquely inclusive community following the resurrection of Jesus. These early followers sought to live not by rules of empire but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A Holy Presence can be seen in their efforts to heal creation, working from distorted images of what it is to be human that derive from the early colonization of lands and peoples. Over time, this process led to the ongoing tenacious hold of white nationalism on religious and civic life. 

Our central resource will be A Theological Commentary on the Book of Acts by Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School.

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First Tuesday Book Club

This monthly book discussion is 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.

Our initial conversations have been about

  • Grace from the Rubble by Jeanne Bishop
  • The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
  • The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion by Barbara Brown Taylor
  • Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes De Mez

Join us for future conversations as we examine the joys, challenges, and consequences of faith.

To receive Zoom details, register online here.

Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago by Heath Carter

Tuesday, March 2
7:00 p.m. (CST)

Discussion with the author led by Joe Morrow

In Gilded Age America, rampant inequality gave rise to a new form of Christianity, one that sought to ease the sufferings of the poor not simply by saving their souls but by transforming society. In Union Made, Heath W. Carter advances a bold new interpretation of the origins of American Social Christianity. Rather than crediting the movement to middle-class ministers, seminary professors, and social reformers, Carter places working people—blacksmiths, teamsters, printers and others—at the very center of the story. Carter convincingly argues their collective contribution to American Social Christianity was no less significant than that of Walter Rauschenbusch or Jane Addams.


Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity
by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

Tuesday, April 6
7:00 p.m. (CST)
Discussion with the author

In Just Faith, progressive Christian activist and writer Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons explains how a strong religious left has accompanied every major progressive advance in our society. He resurrects the long history of progressive Christianity to show how it can and must link arms with progressive Muslims and Jews to make the moral case for pluralism, human dignity, and the common good. Graves-Fitzsimmons creates a rallying cry for a bold progressive Christianity that fights for its values without apology to influence the cultural and political battles of today.

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores
by Dominique Gilliard

Tuesday, May 4
7:00 p.m. (CST)
Discussion with the author

Dominique Gilliard explores the history and foundation of mass incarceration, examining Christianity’s role in its evolution and expansion. He then shows how Christians can pursue justice that restores and reconciles, offering creative solutions and highlighting innovative interventions. An ordained minister, Dominique Gilliard is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the “Love Mercy Do Justice” initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

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Path of Discipleship: A Lenten Series

Throughout Lent, the Spiritual Formation Council and the Adult Education Committee’s Foundations of Faith team cohost a six-week Lenten series, Path of Discipleship. Registration for the series has closed, but we lift up for your personal Lenten reflection the book they will be studying: Entering the Passion of Jesus by Amy Jill-Levine.

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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.

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.

“Scriptural Journeys: The Enduring Power of Migrations in the Bible”
with Joe Morrow

November 22, December 6 and 13
To watch recordings of this class, click here.

“End Times: A New Look”
with Lucy Forster-Smith
January 31, February 7 and 14
To watch recordings of this class, 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.