These are committed small groups which normally meet each week for ninety minutes. For the first hour we process through the material (usually a book of the Bible) and for the last half-hour we use the time for “sharing,” rotating so that a different member has the opportunity to share each week. In this way we become familiar with the themes and truths of the Scriptures, but we also get to know each other more deeply so that bonds of trust and love can develop.
We assume there is no end of growth to those earnestly studying the Bible, and that the Holy Spirit may speak to and through each member. Honest questions and doubts are encouraged -- the level of our faith can never exceed the level of our doubts. We are not all required or expected to agree on how we understand or interpret what we read (after all, Paul and James did not!) Members of these groups are committed to one another -- these are not “drop in” groups. We expect and rely upon confidentiality.
Several of our Bible Study groups also enjoy an annual weekend Retreat. These Retreats feature times for lectures/presentations on a theme, prayer/reflection, group discussion, and free time. The environment they provide consistently allows both friendships and faith to go deeper still.
Prominent scholar Walter Brueggemann observes that with affluence comes a sense of forgetting, both in ancient as well as contemporary times: “In a context of affluent prosperity, Israel would eventually forget its memory, scuttle the God of the memory, disregard the demands of that God, and forfeit the joy of covenant with Yahweh.”
He goes on to say: “The biblical text has a voice of its own, other than ours. “Doing the text” means letting the voice of the text have its full say in our common life.” In studying the Bible, Brueggemann invites us “to imagine our lives in these narrative modes. The hearing of these narratives of reality makes us more inescapably aware that an attempt to live without the Holy Character of these narratives is indeed a life of “nonsense.” By studying the text together, we discover “a revolutionary way of enacting the hope and energy of the believing community.”
Walter Brueggemann is a renowned Old Testament scholar at Columbia Theological Seminary.