Program review: Love Life from SSJE
Program review: Love Life from SSJE

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It seems appropriate to be reviewing Love Life, the 2014 Lenten study of John’s Gospel from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, on a snow day at Virginia Theological Seminary.

The fact that I can peruse the preview materials on my smart phone from the couch is, I think the Brothers would agree, precisely the point. They call it “comfy content,” because you’re probably still in your pajamas when you read or view it. And yet, as ever, there’s nothing superficial or merely entertaining about what the Brothers are up to.

It’s probably time for a bit of full disclosure: Lisa and I have gotten to see “behind the scenes” of SSJE’s content operation. We stopped by the monastery in November to chat with their communication team and their director of formation, Br. David Vryhof, about this and other programs. And we’ve gotten to see the Love Life program booklet come together, and even to offer a bit of feedback along the way. We are, as the fine print at the bottom of this post specifies, “partner organizations.”

But I’ve been an admirer of the order’s online seasonal teaching series since before this partnership began, and I think I have enough objectivity left to tell you confidently that Love Life stands to be even stronger than the popular Praying Our Lives.

For one thing, the Brothers are back in their chairs and back off their scripts. The feedback we heard about their Advent O Antiphons series was that some some viewers got a little seasick from their movement on camera (as a frequent creator of online video, I empathize).

But much more importantly, this year’s supporting materials will help individuals, small groups, and congregations take their participation in the program to the next level. Page 2 of the downloadable booklet provides an overview of the series’ trajectory; page 4 provides tips to individuals, groups, and leaders about using the series; and most of the rest of the booklet consists of perforated note sheets to tear out and stick in your pocket, Bible, or tablet cover as you work through each week’s clips.

Still, as the end of each video reminds you, the plan is actually very simple:

  1. Watch the videos
  2. Write your answers
  3. Share #LoveLife (thus filling a popular hashtag with authentic spiritual reflections)

#LoveLife banner

I haven’t reviewed individual videos beyond the previews, but this year’s subject matter seems perfectly chosen to bring the order’s humble spiritual depth to bear on an essential and seasonally appropriate topic.

The near-ubiquitous Brother, Give Us A Word (and its delightful spin-off Dude, Gimme A Beat), plus the order’s track record of accessible community outreach, have more than demonstrated these monks’ ability to resonate with modern sensibilities and hungers. And it doesn’t hurt that John’s Gospel is dear to the hearts of the Brothers, who claim the Evangelist as their patron saint.

This series will make an ideal seasonal hybrid faith formation network or serve as the basis for a manageable congregation-wide Lenten discipline (complete with PDF posters and bulletin inserts).

Did I mention it’s all free to download and use, including logos, fonts, and a (beautiful) promotional photo? If you’d rather not do your own printing (and would like the satisfaction of tearing those perforated pages), the booklets are $3 each from Forward Movement.

I believe Love Life is poised to take a place alongside Lent Madness as a broadly popular (and nicely complementary) new media Lenten program par excellence. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the Word.

(You thought I was going to say “in making it a habit,” didn’t you?)


Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, a panelist on the Easter People podcast, and a self-described monastery groupie.

Full disclosure: The Society of St. John the Evangelist is a partner organization of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.


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