Adult Education

Adult Education Opportunities

The adult education programs of Fourth Church provide short-term and ongoing education for our members, friends of the church, and the wider community, through both in-person and Zoom options.

Included among them are the January 31 Michigan Avenue Forum featuring bestselling author Robert P. Jones talking about “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Future of American Democracy.”

Class Offerings
Michigan Avenue Forums
Adult Education Video Archive
Top Ten Bible Podcast

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If you want to tap into the rich resources of previous classes, simply click on this link to find all the adult education classes that were recorded.

“And There Was Light”

Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle
How spirituality influenced Lincoln’s decision on Emancipation
A discussion of Jon Meacham's book on Lincoln
February 18, 25, and March 3
11:00 a.m.

Borwell Dining Room (In-person only)
Register here

Jeff Doane will lead an in-depth discussion of Jon Meacham’s book with a particular focus on how spirituality influenced Lincoln’s decision on Emancipation.

You will want to start reading this 421-page book (excluding the author’s notes) to prepare for this discussion.

Path of Discipleship
Six Weeks of Spiritual Growth in Lent
This year focusing on
Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, S.J.
Tuesdays, February 20–March 26
6:30–8:00 p.m.
In person and via Zoom on February 20 and March 26
Via Zoom February 27–March 19

Registration is required

If you’re yearning for a dynamic way to learn more about the portrait of Jesus in the Gospels, absorb firsthand experiences of pilgrimages through the Holy Land and other lands, deepen your relationship with God, and make meaningful connections with others, then please join Associate Pastors Nancy Benson-Nicol and Joe Morrow and members of the Spiritual Formation Council as we explore James Martin, S.J.’s New York Times bestselling work, Jesus: A Pilgrimage

This six-week course will focus on a sampling of chapters of this marvelous and sweeping work, guiding us through Lent with both in-person and online experiences of discussion, spiritual practices, shared meals, special guests, and other activities.


The Sacraments
March 10 and 17 at 11:00 a.m.
Borwell Dining Room and via Zoom
Register here

Nancy Benson-Nicol, Associate Pastor for Caring Ministries and Spiritual Formation at Fourth Church, will lead us in a discussion of the Christian Sacraments.

What exactly is a sacrament? How do we come to celebrate sacraments the way we do? Why are certain words, phrases, and physical gestures so important (e.g., body of Christ, blood of Christ) and what exactly are we to understand about the literal and/or symbolic meaning involved in the liturgy? Why do Presbyterians only embrace Baptism and Communion as sacraments? Why these? What about the sacraments celebrated in other Christian traditions and the meaning those traditions attach to their celebrations?

Bring curiosity; bring questions!

Sermon Discussion, Feedback, and Fellowship
April 7, 14, 21, and 28
12:15 p.m.

Borwell Dining Room (in person only)
Registration opens in March

Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children, Family, and Welcoming Ministries, will lead us in table group discussions of the Sunday sermon and lectionary texts while sharing a light lunch. The goal is to grow our faith, build fellowship, and deepen our understanding of the text and sermon topic by listening to what others have heard.

We kindly request that you register for these sessions in advance (registration links will be available in March) so that we are sure to have enough lunch for everyone. This class could be extended by popular demand.

Dying Gracefully
April 7 • 11:00 a.m.
Borwell Dining Room and via Zoom
Register here

HD Mitchell, Spiritual Director at the Clare, is back by popular demand for the sequel to his previous class, “Aging Gracefully.”

In this class, HD will explore “The Art of Dying Well.” According to the popular theologian Richard Rohr, “Death is largely a threat to those who have not yet lived their lives.”

We will look together at some ways that we as Easter people can cultivate the courage and compassion to face our finitude and strengthen our capacity to live each day more fully with gratitude and awareness.

Troublesome Texts and Gender
Interpretive Strategies across the Abrahamic Faiths
April 14, 21, and 28
11:00 a.m.

Borwell Dining Room and via Zoom
Register here

Susan Ross, Professor Emerita, Department of Theology, Loyola University of Chicago, will lead a discussion of how certain troublesome texts in scripture on matters of gender and gender roles have been interpreted differently within our Christian tradition (now and over time) and across the Abrahamic faiths. Dr. Ross will offer some new perspectives on recent scholarship on some of the more troublesome texts relating to gender.

Dr. Ross has taught numerous courses including “Feminist Theology” and “Women in Religion” at Loyola. She will draw upon her experience discussing gender issues with her students from different faith backgrounds.

Food and Religion
May 5 • 11:00 a.m.
Borwell Dining Room and via Zoom
Register here

As a predominantly Christian culture for several centuries, daily life in medieval Western Europe became closely entwined with religious practices. Food, in particular, reflected Christian beliefs and actions in both quotidian and extraordinary ways. What, when, and how people ate was partly determined by the liturgical year and the calendar of saints. Personal prayer and sacrifice was reflected by fasting and abstinence from specific foods. And every Church celebration, however solemn or joyous, was demonstrated by culinary practices.

Sarah Kernan, food historian and Scholar in Residence at Newberry Library, will explore the role of food in religion through the ages including:

In everyday and extraordinary culinary customs, Christians in medieval Europe acted out their faith through food, continually shaping and understanding liturgical practices.

Perseverance of the Saints
May 5 • 3:00 p.m.
Chicago Temple (First United Methodist Church) and livestreamed
Register here
We will travel to Chicago Temple to see a staged reading of “Perseverance of the Saints” by Kat Evans. The play is set in 1874 during a tumultuous time in Fourth Church’s history – the heresy trial of the Reverend David Swing. The running time is 2 hours 20 minutes with a 10-minute intermission.

“Thanks to the Ladies Society and the church’s progressive pastor David Swing, Jennie begins to utilize her gifts, help others, and make her first true friend, Maggie. Jennie’s place with the ladies, her relationship with Maggie, and the entire Presbytery of Chicago is thrown into turmoil when the head of McCormick Theological Seminary charges David Swing with heresy.”

The Injustice of White Silence
May 19 • 11:00 a.m.
Borwell Dining Room and via Zoom

Register here

Teri Ott, publisher and editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, will lead a follow-up discussion on the issues raised at the January Michigan Avenue Forum on the hidden roots of white supremacy. She will teach us to value risk-taking as the path toward a more equitable and just world.

Building on skillful memoir-like stories, Ott explores ten risks (including learning, teaching, leading, following, going, and staying) with which she has wrestled in her work with diverse populations as the chaplain of a liberal arts college and as a volunteer in a men’s state prison.

View the Adult Education calendar 

Give Us Your Input

To make an inquiry for information or to send evaluative comments, or to suggest a future course offering, email the Adult Education office.

Recommendation Form for a class or speaker
Proposal Form to submit a class of your own for consideration

Staff/Contact Information

Jana Blazek
Adult Education Administrative Assistant

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(at Michigan Avenue)
Chicago, Illinois 60611.2014
(Across from the Hancock)

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