Pilgrim retains an unapologetic focus on Christian fundamentals and fellowship, while acknowledging a need for individualization and cultural sensitivity among contemporary inquirers.
Building a Foundation for Christian Life
There seems to be a fresh movement in the Episcopal Church and other mainline churches, one the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry calls "The Jesus Movement." In congregations across the country we are talking more about joining God’s mission and following the Way of Jesus. What do we really believe? Why does it matter? How do we follow Jesus when we are not in church? The need and desire for basic instruction in the Christian faith is palpable.
Pilgrim, from Church Publishing, is an attractive, accessible, and affordable resource for adults to build a solid foundation for contemporary Christian life. The aim of Pilgrim is clear: to help people become disciples of Jesus Christ. The small group format blends Christian practices of hospitality, prayer, study, and reflection to provide a rich learning environment that welcomes questions and introduces foundational texts and themes of Christianity.
Pilgrim draws from strengths of earlier discipleship programs such as Alpha, Disciples of Christ in Community, and even Cursillo, by retaining an unapologetic focus on Christian fundamentals and fellowship, while acknowledging a need for individualization and cultural sensitivity among contemporary inquirers.
Stages of Discipleship
Pilgrim has two stages, Follow and Grow. Each responds to the same four core questions: What do Christians believe? How do Christians know and worship God? How do Christians live? What is the Christian vision for the world?
Follow, for inquirers and those who are new to the faith, is structured around four central texts: The Baptismal Covenant, the Lord’s Prayer, the Commandments, and the Beatitudes.
Grow provides a deeper response by inviting participants to engage major themes of Christian life: the Creeds, the Eucharist, the Bible, and the Church in the World.
Follow and Grow share a consistent structure and clear theme throughout the courses. Each course consists of six stand-alone sessions of 75-90 minutes. Every session follows the same outline:
- Opening prayers
- Conversation starter
- Reflection on scripture
- Reading of a two-part thematic article
- Concluding prayers
- Sending out
Small Group Format
The Pilgrim materials are flexible and adaptable. The range of biblical texts and the variety of contributing authors provide a breadth of theological perspective. The editors recommend that an experienced group leader with theological education facilitate Follow to provide mentoring support for those newest to the Christian tradition. Grow is designed for participants to self-guide the program.
The greatest strength of Pilgrim may be the Leader’s Guide that introduces the program by rooting it soundly in the catechetical history of our Church. The distinctive Anglican characteristics and instructional methodology of the program are explicit in the Guide, which also includes excellent resources to guide leaders from program promotion through implementation. Pilgrim: A Course for the Christian Journey Leader’s Guide offers any Christian formation leadership team a useful overview of the state of Christian formation in the Episcopal Church, whether or not it intended to use the program.
Training to Participate in the Jesus Movement
As Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes in the forward, “Jesus did not establish an institution, found a religion, or create an organization. Jesus began a movement!” Pilgrim offers training – one 6-week course at a time – to prepare individuals for a lifelong commitment to the Jesus Movement.
Lisa Kimball, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. Her teaching and research focus on faith formation – the making of Christian disciples across the lifespan – as the fundamental and urgent work of the church.
Originally published in 2013 in the United Kingdom, Pilgrim has been adapted for the Episcopal Church. All Pilgrim resources are available in print and e-book formats from PilgrimProgram.org.