The Return of the Prodigal Son

Finding a good Lent course is an ongoing issue in church. Do you all read the same book together and discuss it chapter by chapter each week? Do you pick a theme and go with lecture/discussion groups? Do you use a CD or DVD which has it all worked out for you like the York courses? My first year here we did a course on different aspects of prayer and it seemed to work well. Last year we did a course on Liturgy going through the liturgy we use and then creating our own.

Prodigal Son RembrandtThis year we have used Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son with CD by DLT. In fact, none of the group bought the book although I recommended it on the first week. They felt they didn’t need to and they got enough from the CD each week. Each session contained extracts from the book along with background information on Nouwen’s life, along with questions for group discussions. The questions were quite personal especially in the first few weeks when the groups were getting to know one another.  We also had a large poster of Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son and I also got a little prayer card for everyone to use at home too.

I read the book many years ago and remember enjoying it. But I’d given away my copy and only last year got another copy from +Alan Smithson’s library. I really enjoyed reading it again and highlighting passages that resonated with me. As the leader I didn’t take part in the group discussions and as the questions were quite personal the groups felt that they didn’t want to reflect back to the larger group. This meant that I felt quite isolated from the discussions although I could hear snippets. We did discuss little bits and pieces, however, especially towards the end of the course.

Last night was our last night and the feedback was good. People had enjoyed exploring the story in such detail and especially getting to know the painting. More art was asked for future courses. Some had not particularly enjoyed Nouwen’s reflections while others had really enjoyed them. But in the end it was the story of the Prodigal Son which won the day.  And getting to know one another in groups.


Lent Course on Prayer finishes with a flourish

This Lent we have been meeting weekly to explore different aspects of prayer. We have looked at Praying with Visuals (icons, art, architecture etc); Praying with Scripture; Praying the Rosary; Contemplative Prayer; and finally last night we looked at Writing and Colouring Prayer.

We used resources from Sheila Julian Merryweather’s book Colourful Prayer which I found last year when I was on a course. After we’d explored writing our prayers in a journal, the unsent letter, and keeping a note of prayers and stuff we liked, we looked at how to pray when ‘words are inadequate’. I am a doodler. There! I’ve said it. When I’m on the phone I can’t stop creating little scribbles on my notepad by the phone. According to this book, doodling is good. But you can doodle for God. But this involves using colour to express your emotions.

Strangely enough, and I find this hard to believe, the author does not like the colour purple. How can this be? But she loves Orange and it is her colour for joy. I’ve never liked orange so to each her own. Last night we looked at developing our own Colour Code by choosing the first colour that came to mind when we thought of certain emotions like: anger (we had reds, blacks and blue); pleased (we had blue, yellow and pink); anxiety (we had pink, red, blue); and peacefulness (lots of green, blue and pink). It was really interesting to see who different everyone saw the colours.

We’ve all been sent home to find our own colours for the following… (How do you see them?)