I recently had the privilege of organizing the bible studies for our diocesan Synod. When first asked to organize this, my thoughts went from “Wow, what a compliment!” to “Wow, what a responsibility!” As I prayed over how to accomplish this task, I realized that I wanted the bible study to be meaningful for all participants, at all levels of biblical awareness: whether a PhD in Biblical Hebrew or someone for whom reading is not their favourite pastime; whether an extreme extrovert with lots of ideas to share or a quiet introvert feeling overwhelmed at their first Synod.
So, with great and lofty ideal of full inclusion and participation, I quickly realized that this was NOT an easy task. How on earth could I put onto paper directions of how to study God’s word? What if my words were misunderstood? What if the translation of my words (I serve in a multi-lingual diocese) took on a very different meaning than what I intended? What if someone felt excluded, rather than included by the process?
Not to be deterred, I began to consider what I do when studying the scriptures. Why do I do it? Because I want to increase my understanding of God’s message for my life. I want to challenge my preconceived notions of how I live out the gospel. I want to be inspired to continually apply God’s truth in my life and ministry.
And so I aimed to re-create those sentiments in a structured format for use by our Synod, as we broke into our study groups. In one study, folks were invited to reflect on a passage, considering its implications on their life and ministry. In another, reflecting on a Pauline epistle, folks were challenged to consider how they might share the good news if it were up to them: letter? Video? Poem? Our third bible study was a time for sharing our own favourite passage of scripture, and why it had such meaning for us. At the end of each study time, we closed with prayer.
The studies seemed to be well received. Some people liked the varying formats, others didn’t, but I understand that all tried to engage. The rubrics for the studies were clearly outlined: There are no ‘wrong’ answers; No one should feel pressured into sharing; All should be allowed to share, free from interruption and criticism.
It was, as I said, a compliment and a responsibility to prepare these studies. It was also opportunity for me to share how I feel the bible should be studied: openly, regularly, safely, and as a living reality. I believe that the scriptures will always have something to tell us, that they will always have some way to challenge us, and that they will always engage us – if we let them. Whatever age and stage, there is vibrancy and beauty just waiting for us inside the good book. I pray we never forget just how much goodness there is for us as individuals, as communities, as the world; waiting to come alive within us.