Erick Hill — Master of Divinity student and member of Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church — invites all the greater Gretna community to his upcoming book study.

After success with a similar study geared toward RELC congregants last spring, Hill set his hopes on a larger, more inclusive program.

A culmination of many influences, the study is ultimately centered on the questions, “How are we called to love our neighbor?” and “Who is our neighbor?”

He drew the inspiration from Luke 10:25, which tells The Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story in which the one least likely to help an injured man was the one to do so.

“Christ is constantly showing us that the neighbor isn’t the one who belongs,” Hill said. “They are the one who lives on the margins of our society, who doesn’t feel they have a place to belong. As humans, we all have a universal need for belonging. We all need to feel connected to something or someone.”

Combining that with his recent work as a hospital chaplain where he encountered and was compelled to overcome language barriers with many of those he sought to comfort, Hill’s motivation to promote community and inclusiveness was reinforced.

“I want to reach into the community and draw people, invite people, into conversations about the things that divide us,” he said. “I’m hoping it creates a safe space for people within the community that have this topic or thoughts on their heart. I hope we can come together and explore what this looks like in our own life and what is our responsibility in the community to do something.”

“One: Unity in a Divided World,” written by Lincoln author Diedra Riggs, will be read and interpreted by study participants.

R.A.R.E. (Racial Awareness, Reconciliation, and Engagement) — a committee of the Nebraska Synod ELCA dedicated to energizing the church to combat the sin of racism — developed a study based on the book, from which Hill structured his own study.

“Throughout the book study, we’ll be introducing concepts of nonviolent communication,” Hill said. “It’s really about how we come together to create a space where we can have difficult conversations in a way that’s respectful, that we can listen to each other’s points.”

Each week will focus on a different concept or skill — for example, empathic listening or compassion toward others — before diving in to the reading and relating that back to those skills.

“Too often we are not comfortable with talking about things that make us uncomfortable,” Hill said. “Nonviolent communication is a set of skills focused on relating human to human, even in the midst of some of our most difficult and challenging conversations.”

Hill said the skills help people focus on seeing those they differ from as people with hopes, dreams and goals, learning about their experiences to understand why they are the way that they are.

The study kicks of Sept. 11 with a workshop hosted by R.A.R.E. and introduction to the book study. The study will then meet weekly on Wednesdays in September and October: Sept. 25, Oct. 2, Oct. 9, Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, with a panel discussion Oct. 24. Times for all dates are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, 153 S. McKenna Ave.

All members of the Gretna community are welcome and encouraged to participate. Participants must only purchase the book, which can be found on Amazon. Day care services will be provided.

For more information, call the Resurrection Lutheran Church office at 402-332-3383.

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