Interview about “Study”: Pastor Steve with Reinhard Helbing and Vivian Parker
Call to Spiritual Renewal – Study
We are using the seven verbs from Bishop Susan Johnson’s Call to Spiritual Renewal as an intentional journey about going deeper into our faith. This month I am talking about STUDY. This is more than a daily devotional – you know … reading the key verse from a passage plus a 300 word devotion followed with a prayer. Daily devotions fit more into next month’s verb: READ, which encourages us to read our Bibles every day. Rather we are talking a deeper study into scripture, or theology or even church history.
Most professions have methods to encourage, or require, people to keep up to date – often is it called continuing education. Part of my pastor’s benefit package is money that can only be used for education. I use that money for conferences and courses. As vocational Christians – and aren’t we all vocational Christians in some fashion – we can delve deeper into a study of what it means to be Christian. Sometimes that can be studying an author’s ideas on theology (study of God) like C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reading books of commentary or explanation about the books within the Bible, or maybe reading church history books.
Throughout this series on the seven verbs – a Call to spiritual renewal, I have been interviewing members of Trinity and this month I talked with Reinhard Helbing and Vivian Parker. Reinhard told me he had just finished reading two large books on church history … and he enjoyed it. Most of us probably would not undertake such a mammoth adventure into church history. But equally we cannot simply count on our Sunday School or Confirmation studies as knowing enough either. Bishop Susan wrote in the magazine Canadian Lutheran (October/November 2014):
By the time we “graduate” from these programs no one will have learned everything they need to know about faith to help them survive and thrive for the rest of their lives of faith. Although remembering, “Jesus loves me” can be an incredible comfort in times of need, it doesn’t give you the theological language to wrestle with questions of the existence of God or the enormity of life’s problems. C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones.”
I asked Vivian and Reinhard about what they get out of our Bible studies at Trinity. Vivian told me that she enjoys the fellowship during the study, the going deeper together, and the learning and asking questions. At our Bible study we often pose question and wrestle with them too. I remember my first Lutheran pastor, Glen Nelson from St. Ansgar, Toronto, he said “a journey into a deeper faith often finds better questions rather than better answers.” I hold his words close to my heart as I lead both confirmation class and Bible Study. In our last Bible study at Trinity on the book of Revelation, I asked the group, “Did God create death?” Our discussion jumped between the Revelation text we had been studying and the creation stories and other places too. When Reinhard and I were remembering that evening, he concluded that “questions are welcomed – for that alone – I would recommend our Bible Study.”
I think Bible study serves a very important function that it allows us to read and interpret the scriptures together in community. Scripture is meant to be shared. Also, Bible study is good in that – it exercises your faith – helps you dig into your understandings of God – it might challenge you – it might reinforce you. Vivian Parker had this to say, “The format of our study is relaxed and it is discussion with others that have great faith.”
There are other ways to engage in study of the scriptures and theology.
- Reading books: Here are a few titles from our Trinity library:
- Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn from Them : by Liz Curtis Higgs (TLC 220.92 HIG)
- Wrestling With Angels: What Genesis Teaches Us About Our Spiritual Identity, Sexuality and Personal Relationships : Naomi H Rosenblatt (TLC 222.11 ROSw)
- The Gospel According to Harry Potter: by Connie Neal (TLC 261.57 NEAg)
- Sign up to audit a course at Huron College or Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.
Rev. Dr. Todd Townshend, Dean of Huron college, says that courses can be audited (taking the course without the assignments and marking component) with the instructor and dean’s approval. The Dean also recommends the Licentiate in Theology (LTh) courses some of which are two day weekend course.
- Join in a church bible study – Trinity’s bible study runs most Wednesdays 7pm to 8:30pm from September to May. The conversation and fellowship often extends to the coffee shop afterwards.
Examples from our previous bible studies:
- “The 24 Hour that Changed the World” following Adam Hamilton’s book. This was a deeper look into the events from the Thursday evening meal with Jesus, to his death within 24 hours, and then we moved to the resurrection.
- “What if God was one of us?” using the TV show JOAN OF ARCADIA. There is a lot of good theology and humour in this show and we had bible readings each week to help us prepare for the discussion.
- “Making Sense of the Cross” by Dr. David Lose when we looked at the various atonement theories.
Some Bible study planning ideas for 2016-17:
- Martin Luther PBS documentary and the 2006 Movie: As we start into the 500th anniversary year (October 2016 to October 2017) we will show and discuss the PBS documentary:
Part 1: Driven to Defiance; “I would never have thought that such a storm would rise from Rome over one simple scrap of paper…” (Martin Luther)
Part 2: The Reluctant Revolutionary; “Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen…” (Martin Luther).
- Study the history of the Christian church: before and then after the reformation, in Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world.
Yours in Christ