My wife Jody and I have started a new Sunday School class at our home church, First United Methodist Church in Pensacola. The first meeting was the third Sunday in January this year. I’ve been meaning to post something here about it, but I have been a bit busy. (How many times have you read that on a blog?)
The class is related to this blog as we’re starting with the book Learning and Living Scripture, which I co-authored with Geoffrey Lentz. Once we’ve worked our way through that book, sort of to get everyone on the same page, we’ll choose one of the Participatory Study Series study guides to do next. Right now I think Philippians: A Participatory Study Guide by Dr. Bruce Epperly has the inside track, but no decision has been made.
One of the key elements of the participatory study method is sharing. By sharing we don’t mean telling other people what you have learned, though that can be a part of it. Sharing includes hearing from others, and getting a sort of “check” on the conclusions you’ve drawn. It might include talking to others in your church or to friends and neighbors, but it also involves taking your ideas to commentaries and hearing the words of experts.
It can involve many ways of responding to the text, including art, stories, poetry, paraphrases, translations, exegetical discussions, and so forth.
For example, one exercise from Learning and Living involves Psalm 19. One class member, Jan Edmunds, painted a picture, which you can see to the left (click on the image for full size). David Blanton wrote poetry. I provided a short story. Another class member brought a photograph, which I don’t have, unfortunately.
There may be some who wonder whether we spend time actually studying the text, or whether we just respond to it. While sharing (and the associated accountability) is very important, we do indeed spend time studying the text. You can find out more about the method on the Participatory Bible Study web site (as opposed to blog).
I plan to post regularly about what is going on in the class. It won’t just be material from our responses. I may summarize our discussions of some details of the text, for example. I have the permission of the members to share. So I’m creating a new category here called simply The Way, and it will be for posts about the class. I welcome responses to what we post here.
Today we will be working on the exercises from chapter 9 of Learning and Living. (Note that all members of the class had some exposure to the method so we skipped past some earlier exercises.) We will be discussing the ways in which our expectations of a certain type of literature help shape the way we will understand it.