Bible Study - Telling the Story 2011: More Letters of Paul
Telling the Story returned for a fifth season, this time devoted to more of the letters of Paul. Abigail Young, the leader for the first session, said: "After the success of our first series on St Paul, I wanted to continue providing people with a new and positive way to think and talk about Paul. I still encounter a negative attitude toward him and hope that we can use this new series to offer a 'new look' on Paul that will free us to see him more appreciatively."
The series began on March 1 with a session on 2 Thessalonians, one of Paul's two earliest surviving writings. Dr. Young, with help from well-known storyteller Jean Bubba and music director John Campbell, recreated something of the feeling of the congregation of people that would have heard that letter read to them for the first time. She said: "Second Thessalonians is, for a variety of reasons, one of the few letters of St Paul that is really unfamiliar to most people, even regular churchgoers." The presentation included the reading of the letter, reflections on its meaning, congregational singing, and opportunities for discussion.
The series continued on April 12 with a session on 2 Corinthians. Andrew Asbil, Incumbent, provided the reflection and Jean Bubba was our storyteller for the evening.
Locator map of Philippi by Marsyas
In our third session of this season on May 3, The Rev’d Charles McMulkin helped us hear Paul’s letter to his partners in the gospel at Philippi. This short letter, written from a prison cell, is an intimate and affectionate letter to the community closest to Paul's heart. It breathes a passionate spirit of humble and joyful service in the Lord in an inhospitable world – a spirit that resonates for us in these post-Christian times. Jack Howard was our lector for the evening.
Our final two sessions of the season explored a new format. Rather than having an optional, separate meal before the event, our meal was an integral part of the evening, interspersed with music, story and conversation.
Women had a profound, professional and prophetic influence in the early church. Paul tells us in various letters that women in the early church were patrons, teachers, ministers and apostles. The concept of gender equality is most evident in Paul's letter to the Galatians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28)
How, then, do we receive later Pauline writings that seek to restrict women's voices in the church? The writer of 1st Timothy asserts, "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent" (1 Tim 2:11-12). How do we grapple with Biblical texts that directly contradict not only our own contemporary understanding, but also Paul's own vision of diversity, unity and equality in Christ?
Our conversation and reflection on September 13 was led by our assistant curate, Liska Stefko. Our lector for the evening was Kate Werneburg, an actor who is a member of our 11:15 choir. Our musical contributor was Sacha Williamson, a rising singer on the Toronto scene who teaches singing at York University. All three have been known to use their voices in church. Mike Daley provided guitar accompaniments.
Paul is in prison, writing to the community at Colossae that he had not visited. He was being asked for advice – about what? How did he counsel them? What insights did he have to share with them about slavery and freedom? On Tuesday, January 24 Gus Constantinides led us in reflecting on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Pamela Thomson was our lector, and our musicians were Mike Daley and Kathryn Rose.
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