“I was afraid that it wouldn’t be teachable or learnable.”
Teaching Acts 17:22-28
Most in our community have been to churches where the scriptures are recited by a minister or lay reader. As passive listeners, congregants in these settings have to work harder to connect the readings to their life stories. By contrast, when we began creating our own scripture presentations, we found we could not escape those connections. To the contrary, we began to see and hear our own lives within the scriptures and the passages came to life as never before.
In this excerpt, Marranda describes how she discovered her story in the words of Paul to the people of Athens, the kind of connection we are more likely to make when tasked with the work of turning a scripture passage into a creative presentation instead of merely reading or hearing it. Others described similar experiences. For example, another congregant, Jake, was given the story of Moses and the burning bush. After sitting with it, he was haunted by the line “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
“I’d been struggling with my reluctance to engage in activist work, and reading this passage helped me realize that my reluctance emerged from my sense of being unqualified. So I made a refrain out of the words ‘Who am I?’ And then the story was now not only about Moses but about me.”
The ownership of the stories, we’ve found, extends to the entire congregation. When our congregant Matt presented Ezekiel’s story about the valley of dry bones, he invited the congregants to sing, “I prophesized as I had been commanded.” Afterwards, several of the congregants noted with astonishment the experience of singing about having prophesized and seeing others around them do the same. “As we sang that refrain, it occurred to me that I was surrounded by prophets,” one of them observed.
It’s worth noting that the passages were drawn at random. Congregants often began the work of creating a presentation with little sense of connection to their particular piece of scripture. Any such passage read to them in church might have been instantly forgotten. But after being asked to take these passages and create presentations for their fellow congregants, these scriptures have taken on special meaning. As Marranda and others have shown, the work has pushed us to place ourselves inside the scriptures, to look out from the text and see our lives in the stories, to recognize that the word of God points to the here and now.
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