In the beginning…
Word and Life has its roots in three movements of the Spirit:
- Vatican II
- The Catholic Charismatic Movement
- The study of Scripture offered by the Inter-denominational Bible Study Fellowship
In 1977 the only resource for Scripture Study in the Santa Barbara area was the Protestant Inter-denominational Bible Study Fellowship. In response to a call to “bring the Word into your Life,” a group of Catholic lay women attending Bible Study Fellowship began the process of organizing an Inter-parish Catholic Bible Study in Santa Barbara. With the approval of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the support of local Franciscan priest Fr. Virgil Cordano, Word and Life Catholic Bible Study began its first formal daytime study in the Fall of 1978 in the Dolores Center at Our Lady of Sorrows Church.
Patterned after Bible Study Fellowship, Word and Life offered a study of the books of the Bible using a commentary, home study, speaker presentations and small group sharing. Time for song, prayer and fellowship was included in the two hours on Thursdays mornings. There were two studies a year, Fall and Spring and for many years a summer study was also offered.
As We Evolved…
For 21 years Word and Life served the Santa Barbara parishes offering a daytime Bible Study and, for many years, a nighttime study as well. Originally known as Word and Life Catholic Bible Study, our name was changed several years later to Word and Life Bible Study so that, in a spirit of inclusivity (catholicity), we might encourage persons of other faith traditions to join us.
Building on the foundation of Biblical studies in the year 2000 Word and Life had another name change to reflect the interest in exploring the understanding of Jesus as each new age confronted problems whose complexity was not directly addressed in the Sacred Scriptures. Doctrines and Dogmas, originating at a time when the cosmic worldview was much different than that held today, provided little help with an understanding of Jesus in the 21st century. We became Word and Life Study Fellowship.
We embarked upon the study of themes such as the understanding of Jesus’ humanity and divinity over the centuries; the way in which evolution and science have informed our understanding of creation, incarnation and redemption; the way psychology and literature inform our understanding of Jesus and our faith. Word and Life also undertook a painful study of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church and its root causes. The role of women and the feminine in the world and in the Church has frequently attracted our attention.
Led by the Spirit working through our history, we have grown as a community at Word and Life, learning to accept our own diversity and make room for differences of opinion, to critically reflect on our faith and take adult responsibility for it, to be collaborative in decision making, to be accountable for the many and diverse needs of the “world” community, and to be an outreach and spiritual resource for all seekers.
Rooted in the Spirit from the beginning, Word and Life continues to deepen its call to radical inclusivity, to welcome the stranger and to be a compassionate witness to Love in the world.
For the past few years Word and Life has aptly described itself as Thoughtful Christians in Search of Mature Faith. However, for a growing number of long time Word and Life members, Word and Life today has become something much broader and deeper: a compassionate community for contemplative living and learning.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, we also recognize our role as an Inter-Spiritual Community, welcoming other heart-centered traditions and faiths to join in our evolving exploration of the Wisdom Pattern and the Cosmic Christ.
By Alice MacDonald