This year’s Indiana School of Christian Mission offered an entirely different format for the Spiritual Growth study. Contrary to previous years, this year’s experience involved participation by everyone.

The Rev. David V.W. Owen, executive assistant to the bishop, used Bible study to lead the class on a journey of reflections aimed at forgiveness and reconciliation. The class of 206 women and men, gathered July 26-29 at DePauw University. Another 128 students attended the July 30 sampler event and they examined how the Good News of reconciliation is the central message of Christ and reconciliation includes forgiveness and restorative justice.

Groups of eights shared in circles, each group centered around an altar that held a candle, a small cross and a “talking stick.”

Following a Native American custom, Owen explained that individuals could only speak when holding the talking stick, and could easily be excused from sharing by simply passing the stick on to the next person. Bible stories guided reflections and discussions.

The Holy Spirit was present as communities formed within each circle as they shared together throughout the week. Many individuals shared experiences that healing and forgiveness began to take place, offering hope and reconciliation. Many circles coveted to stay in touch and to pray for one another.

Each circle was invited to decorate its talking stick to commemorate the journey within that circle. Then, at the close of the school and sampler event, the sticks were placed on the altar where Owen offered a prayer of dedication. A plain stick was added representing the stories yet to be told. All the talking sticks will be placed on the altar at the United Methodist Women of Indiana’s Fall Annual Meeting Saturday, Oct. 15, at Old Bethel UMC in Indianapolis, representing the continuation of United Methodist Women stories. Registration is available online at

In addition to the adults, 29 children and 17 youth learned of God’s love in age appropriate study and activity under the direction of Lisa Vaughan and Deb Johnson respectively. Next year Indiana United Methodist Women will return to DePauw University in Greencastle, for their School of Christian Mission the week of July 23.

The school’s plenary session abour forgiveness and reconciliation broke into smaller discussion groups. In one of those groups was (seated from left): Carol Bane, Connie Wood, Mavis Thomas, Joanne Boyer. Standing from left are: Jan Wilcox, Laura Ayers, Pat Wilkens-Cosby, David V.W. Owen (plenary leader) and Madalyn Ayers.