Education program aimed at newcomers

By on January 1, 2005

Via Media, a fast-growing eight-week Christian education program for adults developed by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) and aimed at providing “an open forum where people can discuss the basics of the Christian faith” is now in Canada.

Canon Tim Smart of the diocese of Montreal, who trained for the Via Media program in Boston last June, offered it at the Montreal Diocesan College last month. Canon Michael Patterson, diocesan director of evangelism, also offers the course in the diocese of Niagara.

What happens in a course of Via Media (which means “the middle way”)? According to Mr. Smart, “People gather for a meal, watch a video that introduces a conversation, and spend time in small groups discussing and posing questions of faith.” After each session, participants take home materials, a glossary of terms (“insider lingo”), a theology statement, and specially designed liturgy.

A Via Media course offered in the United States calls it a program that offers people “a safe place to ask 21st century questions.” According to the Via Media Web site, www.everyvoice.net/viamedia, it is “appropriate for newcomers to the faith as well as those who have been in the church for many years but never had the opportunity to talk about their questions of faith in a small group.”

Mr. Smart said that the Via Media course he offered in November “is really an attempt to get some key people interested in the course and to see if there is sufficient interest in the program to run a diocesan training day so that many parishes may learn about the program and consider it for purchase.”

He said that Via Media is similar to the popular Alpha course in format “but different in style and in content.” (Started at Holy Trinity Brompton – a London Anglican church – more than 20 years ago, Alpha is a 10-week introduction to the basics of Christianity.) Mr. Smart noted that the Via Media video shows a round table discussion, “not one man telling everyone what he believes and therefore, the ensuing discussion allows for diversity of opinion and openness.”

Via Media is described by ECUSA as “an evangelism tool that presents the basic tenets of Christianity from an inclusive, Anglican approach to Scripture, traditions, and reason,” and is one that “represents the mainstream of American Anglicanism.”

Mr. Smart may be reached at (514) 849-4437, or by e-mail at [email protected]

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