Last Saturday at the seminary, a workshop for tri-state area deacons, "Leading Bible Study" took place. Through an extraordinary chain of events, Thelma Ruffin Thomas and her colleague Joyce Parr led the morning part of the workshop. It wasn't planned that way but it was much, much better!
I had gone to my office at 9.15 to collect handouts for the workshop at 10.00am. The student worker setting up the coffee and tea came into my office in considerable distress because these supplies and even the coffee pot were not where he'd left them the previous night! "Perhaps they've gone walkabout," I suggested, adding, "I'll call the front desk to see if they know."
"Yes," said the desk person on the other end of the phone, "I think X is setting up coffee and tea right now for a different workshop, and she might know about your supplies." Indeed she did. And she was sure that some kind person had laid them out for her the night before!
After that, it was a simple matter of getting the deacons to the coffee and tea. Or getting the coffee and tea to the deacons. And then I wandered over to see Thelma setting up for the other workshop: "Biblical Storytelling." Internalizing the biblical story so as to tell it authentically was exactly what I'd wanted to spend the first part of the workshop for deacons doing. Turns out that getting the coffee and tea and deacons together was just the beginning of the fusion. The next part unfolded so that "Biblical Storytelling" blended with "Leading Bible Study" and the deacons got the blessings of Thelma, Joyce, and the other workshop leader and participants!
Thelma and Joyce told biblical stories through movement and music. First, Thelma used a rain stick whose sounds created an aura of expectation. Then she did a rap of the gospel passage in the voice of Peter seeing a ghost and then walking to Jesus on the water. When it was over, she asked what feelings did the story evoke? And we were off into the world of multiple meanings and layers of storytelling in which a spoken, living gospel unfolds in the hearts and minds of hearers.
So when we got to the afternoon session to discuss leading bible study, we were primed with living, breathing, oral gospel authentically conveying multiple meanings to listeners. We took that into a practice of Anglican Bible Study in which we focused on hearing and respecting each person's application of the gospel to their lives.