Sunday, December 13, 2009

growing congregational capacity to engage the Bible

For those wrestling with how to deepen congregational capacity around the Bible, and who learn from others adventures, here’s what I did this morning. The Bible text was available in three formats:
– a postcard sized card, professionally printed (one of series of four “blessings”)
– as a powerpoint slide
– as a 10 metre high banner in the church (one of a set of four).

Four times during the sermon I invited a minute’s silence. Each time, I invited the congregation to read the text for themselves (whether by postcard, banner or powerpoint) and engage a different set of questions:

  • first – What word or phrase strikes us? What questions does it raise?
  • second – What life experiences does it connect with?
  • third – How does this part fit with the rest of the Bible book?
  • fourth – What other Bible verses, or Bible stories, does this bring to mind?

When appropriate (all except third time) I asked for congregational feedback, and then shared some our my thoughts, emerging from my research, reading, commentary digging during the week. I pointed out at the end that this is a model for how any of us can read the Bible – it honours the text, our life experience, literary genre and the flow of God’s big story.

I’ve blogged before (here, here, here and here) about the weakness of “one voice is the expert” and of “sharing as pooling of ignorance.” It seems to me that approaches as detailed above honour both the reservoir of knowledge that exists about original context, the diversity of life experience we all bring, the wisdom of the community and the need for all of us, publicly and privately, to be doing the hard yards of listening to God around Scripture.

Specifically what I did offered a
a) guided space for people to engage Bible for themselves
b) conversational interaction, hearing each other in community
c) shared input, from the commentaries, my life, and the history of church
d) a clear process which can then be taken and applied in other contexts.

It’s still a little bit head-based for my liking. But this is 10:30 am. After six years at Opawa, we have a variety of congregations that offer a huge range of ways to connect with God. You can art at Sidedoor, smell and feel at Soak, discuss at espresso, hymn sing, culturally connect at Grow. Bottom-line, some people still find it most helpful to sit and think with their heads. So we need “sitting and thinking” places, like 10:30 Sunday morning!

Posted by steve at 04:32 PM

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for your suggestions.
    We too have been trying to find ways of engaging with the bible that encourage multiple voices.
    Check out my blog for a method I call ‘Remembering the bible – not rote memory but sharing of oral versions, and the vision4life process in the URC: last years we had Bible Year but material for multiple voices still available under the bible Year banner on our website:
    I certainly like the idea of offering people different ways of engaging with the same piece of the Bible in the same space. Thanks.

    Comment by Janet Lees — January 13, 2010 @ 12:08 am

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