Back in January, Bishop Morales asked Trinity to look for a good ‘Bible Study’ for the parish. What we discovered was The Story and it is already, to use a metaphor of Bishop Morales, ‘pouring good wine,’ the wine of scripture – and of understanding of one another – into our lives.
The Story is an abridged, chronological, narrative version of the Bible – directly quoted sections of either the King James Version, the New King James Version or the New International Version – in 31 chapters. Videos (one version for adults and a different version for youth) accompany each chapter, each about 11 minutes long. The chapters are short – 10-12 pages long – and easy to read. “Because it’s slower paced,” commented one participant, “I don’t forget it – I can digest it and not get discouraged.”
Of course, when you try to condense the Bible to 31 chapters, a lot is left on the cutting room floor. To mitigate the loss of text, the parish provides a weekly handout that tells what was missed and where to find it in the Bible. The handout also offers additional information that might include fun facts, liturgical connections, spiritual/theological reflections or other information to complement the readings.
But – The Story isn’t really about reading. It’s about experiencing the scriptures together in small groups. Trinity has formed small groups meeting various times and days to accommodate varying personal schedules. Each group meets once a week for one hour where they watch the video and engage in discussion using a list of sample discussion questions provided to the small group hosts. The discussion questions aren’t “test” questions, but rather questions meant to create opportunities to share reactions to the scripture. This way, anyone can lead a discussion – no experience necessary.
A notable strength of The Story is its approachability. Participants in our groups range from Deacons to people who’ve never read the Bible nor ever engaged in a Bible Study (including four people from outside of the parish – making this an opportunity for evangelism as well). Reactions are wide-ranging. Some with considerable scripture and theology background have commented on finding insights for the first time and on the joy of sharing our experiences of God with each other. One parishioner rejoiced that, “it’s a big deal to me because it’s not over my head and I don’t feel stupid.”
The Story has brought us all together in new ways. Even our children have a small group of their own and are reading the same sections as the adults, but in a youth version. Three families who go south for the winter are following along from home and watching the videos on YouTube. One of them commented that The Story makes them feel more connected to the parish while away. The Story is bringing us all closer to the Word of God and to each other. As one parishioner stated, “It’s the fellowship-building that’s happening in these small groups that’s infinitely valuable.”