The Pastoral Planning Office of the Diocese of Parramatta has been hosting Zoom gatherings during the COVID-19 restrictions that deal with a range of contemporary spiritual topics titled simply, Saturday Sessions. Participants are asked to watch/listen to an online video/podcast and then divided into chat rooms of two or three people. They are given questions that arise from that week’s particular topic and are invited to share their points of view.
One of the recent presentations was based on a TED Talk by Rick Warren on his best-selling book, A Purpose Driven Life. In the Talk, Warren states he feels spiritual emptiness is a widespread disease in our time. Most people live a restless unsatisfied existence. Sooner or later they ask the big questions concerning the meaning of life: Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my purpose? However, only a few people continue to pursue this line of questioning to seek out a meaningful life.
Warren also shares his personal experience of examining God’s purpose behind the influence and affluence brought into his life as the result of his book. He references Psalm 72, where Solomon asks for more power to look after the poor, the needy and the oppressed. Warren also draws on Exodus 4:1-4 where God demonstrates to Moses that if he trusts in God, God will work through him in unthought of ways. The influence and affluence the success of his book brought him, meant Warren was now able to help others in ways previously impossible for him. He chooses to give his salary back to his church (challenging materialism) and decides not to buy a new car in order to stay humble and to respond to God’s plan for his life. He acknowledges that using our gifts to make the world a better place, pleases God. He asks the audience, ‘what are you going to do with what you’ve been given; with your background, your talents, your opportunities, education, freedom, networks, wealth, creativity?’
Warren’s TED Talk led to a very animated Saturday Session! Participants recognised how people, trying to fill the spiritual void, sometimes console themselves with activities such as drinking or gambling. Alienation and loneliness, often unacknowledged in church communities, may also stem from a lack of spirituality. Others observed that the pandemic has uncovered areas we were previously unaware of and we are being challenged to speak up and to do what we can.
Warren’s Talk also stimulated discussion on Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2015) and their perceived view of the world. A generation being taught like no other, they are encouraged to think about the world differently, and often to question traditional models. Warren challenges Gen Z with Christian understanding and examples from the Bible. Allowing ourselves to understand our Faith will reveal answers to many young people’s questions – as has been shown through the test of time.
All opinions were shared in a respectful and welcoming environment where all participants can grow and share faith together.
Saturday Sessions is an initiative by the Pastoral Planning Office, Diocese of Parramatta. It offers online conversation and group sharing for anyone who has a desire to grow and share faith.
People are invited to come together to share thoughts in response to a video or audio piece that they have been given to watch or listen to prior to the conversation.
A different speaker and topic is offered each week and offers a perspective on life and faith. Participants are encouraged to take this initiative into faith communities as another way to be creative in love and build community. Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Teresa Prior is a parishioner of St Joseph’s Parish, Kingswood, and a member of the Western Deanery Pastoral Council.