Telling the Story 2009: The Letters of Paul
Telling the Story and After the Story returned in 2009, this time devoted to the letters of Paul, the misunderstood apostle. Musicians, readers, and biblical scholars worked together over five sessions to explore and reconsider the Letters of Paul. The Letters of Paul sessions aimed to recreate the feeling of the first congregation of people to have heard that letter read to them.
Abigail Young, who led the first session, said: "I was moved by a desire to get people thinking and talking about Paul in a positive way. I think he gets a largely undeserved bad press and that the 'new look' on Paul is something that can free us to see him more accurately and more appreciatively...."
Dr. Young recreated something of the feeling of the congregation of people that would have heard that letter read to them for the first time. Jean Bubba, well-known storyteller, read Paul’s message to Thessalonika.
Abigail said: I'd like to do something a little different. We all have a part to play, and yours is to represent the very first recipients of this letter. There will be about the same number of us as in Paul's first congregation in Thessalonika, and they would not have had a large church building to spread out in -- in fact they would not have had any church building at all! They would have met in someone's workshop or in someone's house to hear the letter that had come from Paul. Let me preview the evening for you briefly. We're going to begin with some singing, the sort of hymns, mostly Psalms, that they might have sung at the beginning of their meeting. Then I am going to set the stage by saying something about Thessalonika and the community there. Then the lector -- the person set apart by the community to read scripture at their meeting seems like an obvious choice to read this important message to the community -- will read us Paul's letter. We think that Paul likely sent a delegate with his letters, someone he'd either associated with himself in writing it or discussed it with in detail, who could break open his dense prose and help the congregation to understand his message. So we'll hear it in two sections with more hymns and some interpretation after each section."
Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is considered a cornerstone of Christian theological thought, dealing with the controversy between Mosaic Law and the evolving early Christian church. Ann Jervis, Professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology (and cross-appointed to Trinity College, University of Toronto), led the session. She introduced the Letter to the Galatians by talking about circumstances, history, and what it was like to be part of the early church. She then took on the role of the “rival evangelists”, who interrupted the reading of the letter to share insights.
Joanne Davies, Ecumenical Chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital, read Paul’s message to the Galatians. John Campbell, Director of Music for Church of the Redeemer, led the gathering in songs of freedom.
Joanne Davies, Ecumenical Chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital, led this third session. She posed the question: “How do we read Paul’s vision of the Church? We went on a journey in sacrifice, submission, slavery, and spiritual warfare, through doctrinal details to cosmic joy, and then back to the ordinary.”
Christopher Cantlon, a long time member of the Redeemer, lector, and a singer in the Redeemer choir, read Paul’s letter. With references to both earthly and spiritual ways, the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of how to live a life of love, truth and light, as well as concentrating deeply on the meaning of the Church. John Campbell, Director of Music for Church of the Redeemer, led the gathering in song.
Practical questions about relationships and profound thoughts about love were explored in the fourth session.
Andrew Asbil was the presenter for the evening. "Paul gets practical about our Christian faith, questions about relationships and other everyday issues," he said. "He also happens to get profound about what it means to Love."
Storyteller for the evening was the Rev'd Canon Mark Tiller, Incumbent of Grace Church Waterdown, who has memorized the entire First Letter to the Corinthians (people of the ancient Greek city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth).
John Campbell, Director of Music, led the group in song.
Caesar or Christ? Conquering Lord or suffering Saviour? A violent empire or a disarming Kingdom?
We concluded our series Telling the Story: The Letters of Paul with a presentation by theologian Brian Walsh called Romans Disarmed: Paul as Subversive in the Empire.
Brian Walsh, an author and Christian Reformed Campus Minister at the University of Toronto, engaged participants in exploring Paul’s letter to the Romans – a seminal book of the New Testament that has been interpreted in different ways over the centuries.
Walsh commented, “Paul’s letter to the Romans has been used as a weapon in Christian theological disagreement throughout the ages while at the same time serving to legitimize the ruling social order. In this discussion, we will attempt to disarm this text as a weapon against each other while also discerning the ways in which this letter disarms all imperial socio-economic orders.”
Guitarist and Redeemer member Dave Krause joined Walsh in an evening that wove scripture, music and exposition. The music included congregational singing.
The study of the Letters of Paul continued with After the Story. This five-part series focused on five books: Thessalonians, Galatians, Ephesians, Corinthians, and Romans. A different leader facilitated each small-group Bible Study session.
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