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Bible Study, a new awareness

bible studyThis past Tuesday, the parish I’m serving started a summer bible study. We’re getting together once a week to dive deeper into the Holy Scriptures; each person from their own bible, to better understand what the Word of God is saying to us today in our lives.

We had a great first gathering, chose a book of the bible to read, asked a number of questions, shared a number of stories, went on a number of tangents. It was fun. When we needed to break for the evening, we closed our time together in prayer. It was a peaceful end to a lovely evening.

What we didn’t do, however, was realise how lucky we were. We were lucky that we could gather in a safe place, a calm place, a holy place, to study scriptures. We were lucky that we could share our opinions and ask our questions as they came to us. We were lucky that we could pray together and travel home safely.

The next night, as we all know, violence and devastation erupted in a similarly holy place in a similarly focused gathering. A time and space dedicated to studying God’s word and prayer was corrupted as 9 people lost their lives in Charleston, South Carolina. (May they rest in peace and rise in glory.)

And since then, there have been many articles, comments, interviews, speculations – in the media, in church gatherings, in watercooler discussions. The discussions range through shock and anger and fear, from accusations to defenses, from articulately researched positions to emotional-based expressions. There is blame, there is hurt, there is politicking and finger-pointing. There are headlines and sound bytes. Throughout it all, there is the unknown. We do not have all the details, we do not have a full understanding of events, and we likely never will.

What we do have is the opportunity to remember this the next time we gather, and the time after that, and the time after that. We have opportunity to recognise our fortune in gathering in safety, in freedom, in peace. We have opportunity to be thankful for the privilege of coming together in God’s house to read God’s Word with God’s people. We have opportunity to know that so often, so many of God’s children are not as lucky as we are in these realities.

We have opportunity to pray:

For the times we have lived more in fear than in faith.

For the times we dwelt in hate, refusing to love.

For the times we refused to acknowledge and address systematic injustices.

For the times we have taken for granted the liberties we enjoy.

For the times we have focused on perceived scarcity, not the truth of abundance.

For the times we have forgotten to count our blessings.


This coming week, at Bible study, we’ll gather again – to study, to pray, to be aware of the cost to some people to undertake a similar activity. We will come to bible study with our own impressions, emotions, perspectives; we will come with a new awareness of being the people of God.

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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8 Responses to Bible Study, a new awareness

  1. Foreigners are not allowed to bring along their own bible into Saudi Arabia.

  2. You raise a good point Laura about the safety most of us have to gather and study God’s Word – and being conscious of that while praying for those who do not have that safety. What does concern me however is your comment about not having a full understanding of the events. It is true we may never fully know all the details, but we certainly know enough to know who did it, why he did it, what kind of social and political influences supported his decision and which wider issues (systemic and personal racism, gun control or lack thereof) all played a part. I worry sometimes that the church (especially when we’re in “safe places” like Canada) takes a comfortable position of “its such a tragedy, let’s pray about it” instead of a more definite “Its a deliberate racially motivated hate crime, let’s actively support social and political change” position. You’re not saying we shouldn’t do that of course, but I worry sometimes that we let ourselves off the hook when we adopt the attitude “We’ll never really know why it happened”. Yes. We do know.

    • Thanks Daniel, I can appreciate that many of us are feeling frustrated and shocked and hurt; and I agree that we should support social and political change. I feel that what we ‘know’ is in broad strokes, what we ‘know’ is what has been released to and through the media. However, we do NOT fully understand all that happened – I feel that to do that we would need to have the details, including the specifics of the situation, and including what was going through the minds of those involved at the time. We simply cannot know. Furthermore, I am not advocating a dismissive or laissez-faire attitude, rather I am inviting us to carefully and intentionally be aware of our (perceived) safety when we do gather in prayer and study.

  3. Dawn Leger

    I have to support Daniel on this. This was not an attack on Christianity. It was a racist act. The shooter himself said so.

    Christians are persecuted around the world, this is true. He walked into Emmanuel AME not because it was a church, but because it was a place where black people gathered and felt safe.

    I don’t deny the complexity, but I reject our way of hiding racism in complexity. If they were meeting in a school, he would have gone to a school. If he didn’t have a gun, he would have found a bow and arrow. If they had been white, he would not have killed them.

    • In all of this, I can’t help by wonder. The early church prayed in secret. Christians in other parts of the world gather at great risk. While I do think we should be thankful for the safety in which we are able to worship, I can’t help but wonder if we’re comparing apples and oranges. The early church called people to worship something other than the societal norms. Christians in other parts of the world proclaim a dangerous faith in the face of oppression and hatred. While it is true that we live in relative safety, I find myself asking whether that is always due to freedom, or whether at times, that’s because our style of Christianity, or our expression of faith simply isn’t… dangerous?

      • Good questions, Jesse. Have we forgotten that prayer calls us into action, which can sometimes be uncomfortable?

    • Dawn, I’m sorry if you think I’ve suggested that this was an attack on Christianty, or that I am “hiding racism in complexity.” It was not my intention, and I did not say those things.
      I was reflecting on the setting, and how for may people this week people gathering for bible study (anywhere, any race) may have a different awareness.

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