Walking Our Faith: Happenstance and Bible Study Fellowship (column)
September 10, 2016
At the beginning of summer, Judith invited me to lunch.
About 45 minutes into our conversation over burgers on Frisco's Main Street, Judith revealed that she holds a doctorate in theology, has taught theology at the master's level, and is so smart I would have gladly sat there for the rest of the afternoon just to hear what she had to say.
This happens quite often.
Since I began writing this column I frequently receive an email from someone and we end up meeting for coffee. And in my journey to write about Summit County churches, I meet the pastor for a quick meal.
For instance, during my coffee with Charlie Brumbaugh, pastor at St. John's Episcopal Church, I discovered he not only has an impressive knowledge of theology, but also American history and a love of contemporary music.
With each meeting, I discover how rich our community is in dedicated church leaders and lay-people who love their faith and take seriously the job of educating themselves. I also discover just how much I still have to learn. And that's exactly the way it should be, our faith journey should be one of life-long learning.
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Then there's happenstance, also known by that magical word: synchronicity.
Three weeks ago, Father Joe gave an inspiring homily during Saturday evening Mass at Saint Mary's. I can't remember what it was about except this: afterward, I stopped to tell him how much I enjoyed it and shared that my stumbling block has always been trusting God.
Father Joe's face lit up and he suggested that I read "33 Days to Merciful Love: A do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy." It's a book of many themes, but at its core, it is a book about trusting God. By the time I reached my car, I'd pulled out my phone, tapped my Amazon app and ordered a copy of the book.
Fast forward a couple weeks, I get a call from deacon Chuck Lamar who after reading my latest column thought I might be interested in joining a four-week group study of, you guessed it: "33 Days to Merciful Love." I told Chuck that I'd already started the book, but I'd come to the first meeting.
There were seven of us at the first meeting. Deacon Chuck passed out a workbook to accompany the book I was reading and we watched a video. Afterward, I realized that I would gain more from reading the book if I took the time to fill out the questions and participate in the group discussion. The questions would cause me to reflect on what I'd read more carefully and the group members would help me to see what I'd read from another person's perspective.
Back to my lunch with Judith three months earlier, she asked if I'd ever heard of Bible Study Fellowship. A broad grin swept over my face and I enthusiastically said, "YES." My last experience with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) was in the mid-1990s after I'd left my life on Wall Street and was living in Fort Lauderdale trying to figure out where to go next.
A friend invited me to BSF and I went hesitantly. Bible Study Fellowship is an interesting animal.
The calendar of Bible Study Fellowship follows a school calendar, starting in September and going through May with breaks for Christmas and spring break. During the course of that "school" year, one book of the Bible is studied in-depth. The course of study combines a talk by a group leader, then participants break into small groups to discuss that week's readings and questions. All of which might sound familiar if you've attended a Bible study before.
What makes BSF different is that it welcomes people of all faith. In fact, BSF is so adamant that the focus be only on learning God's word, that members are not allowed to reveal what their religious beliefs are or to discuss what, if any, church they attend.
That is what makes BSF very special. It's an opportunity to learn from others in a unique inter-faith setting, without judgement.
In fact, when I attended BSF in the mid-1990s one of my dearest friends was a woman, a brilliant attorney, who up until she began BSF had not attended church or considered herself a Christian. However, after one or two years of BSF, she became so enamored with what she was learning that she went on to get a master's degree in theology.
My own experience of Bible Study Fellowship was similar. I loved the in-depth study we received of the Bible. It was one of those turning points in my faith journey. Although I had read the Bible before, this systematic method of in-depth study gave me a greater appreciation for the beauty and wisdom contained within the pages of the Bible. I participated in BSF for several years and was never bored … each year a new book of the Bible is studied.
Which is why I was so excited when Judith mentioned that Bible Study Fellowship had started a new chapter in Summit County.
After that lunch, I met with Kathrine Jansen who will be leading Bible Study Fellowship in Summit County. You can contact Kathrine at email@example.com or just show up on Friday, Sept, 16, at 9:15 a.m. at Dillon Community Church, 371 E. La Bonte St., in Dillon.
There is also a men's group that will meet beginning Sept. 12, at 6:45 p.m. Contact John Flanders if you are interested in joining: JohnRFlanders@comcast.net.
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