By Vicky Woolridge
What events do you recall in your life that have been so powerful that your way of seeing things changed – opened up and became new? I’m asking because I’ve recently had this experience in my life.
During the last week of June, I spent time at Eureka College taking a class in Biblical Storytelling, taught my Marti Stuessy as a part of the School For Ministry program of the Regional Church.
I heard Bible stories told in both Hebrew and Greek, by Marti, who is a Biblical Scholar from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. The sounds of the words and phrases are still ringing in my ears. The power of hearing the stories in their original language was surprisingly engaging and sacred.
Marti’s presentations, with original text and simple body movements “showed” the stories, inviting the listeners to be present to them in a way that I had not experienced before. The background information and setting the stage of the story, telling where it took place and who the characters were, as well as the author and the author’s original intention and audience, made the story more rich and “real”.
I attended this class as a student in the first Cohort of the School for Ministry, sponsored by CCIW and The United Church of Christ Conference. As a part of the three year program it was the first one week intensive class offered to our Cohort.
My perspective of Biblical stories has changed since participating in this class. I find myself wondering about why the story was told? What was the author wanting those hearing the stories to know? How did hearing these stories change their lives? How do I honor the stories by going deeper and learning about the writer/teller? How do I let go of my own biases and prior knowledge to hear the stories afresh and allow myself to receive them in a new way? I must admit that I have more questions than answers.
I also have more desire than ever before to hear these Biblical stories. They have captured my heart. I want to hear the pain of the Syrophoenician woman telling Jesus that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table” as she begs him to heal her daughter. (Mark 7:24-30) I want to wrestle with Isaac as his father, Abraham, takes him to the mountain with no sacrifice in sight. (Genesis 22) Hearing these stories told as their original listeners would have heard them has enlivened them for me. I want to read and memorize these stories and speak them aloud in order to connect with them on a deeper level.
This experience has both opened my mind and heart, inviting me to let the Biblical stories become a part of my life. I am grateful to be participating in the School for Ministry, as I discern where and how God is calling me to serve. I’m especially grateful to Marti Steussy for sharing her expertise and love of Biblical stories and their telling with our Cohort.