What a weekend!
Thank you to everyone who made it out to Preaching Grace on May 12 to 14!
On Friday evening, a crowd of 130 gathered to hear the Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence speak. She shared about her background in theatre and drew a connection between repertory theatre companies and the practice of reading scripture with others.
In theatre, people read and play characters in different ways, and changing the actors in each role can affect the experience of a play in surprising ways. Similarly, if we rehearse scripture in a community, the voices and perspectives of others can add depth to the words that we may not have heard reading on our own. But this practice isn’t without challenges.
Dr. Carter Florence suggested that we tend to read scripture by focusing on the nouns, and across time and culture nouns can be difficult to translate and often lead to disagreements. Instead, she suggested we concentrate on the verbs. The verbs in scripture require little translation and are the same verbs we use today. By paying attention to the verbs, we can find our own experiences reflected back to us, even in stories that seem otherwise unfamiliar.
Forty people, most having no preaching experience, attended Saturday's workshop to dig deeper into the practice of reading in community and rehearsing the verbs.
The group read verse-by-verse through Mark, Chapter 5 - taking the time to stop and notice each of the verbs. They talked about the verbs that were familiar and reflected on the verbs that stirred a reaction in them. Occasionally, Dr. Carter Florence asked members of the group to act out a particular verb sequence, often revealing the passage in even greater depth.
“I’ve never experienced scripture like that,” one participant said, “others in the group were pointing out small quirks in the text that I didn’t notice, but which raised some big questions!”
Another participant reflected on Jesus’ response after Jairus is told his daughter had died:
“We can read ahead to know Jairus’ daughter will be okay, but imagining myself in Jairus’ shoes, Jesus’ statement ‘Do not fear, only believe,’ hurt a little – in a moment of profound grief I don’t think the words would offer much comfort.
“I never connected with this story before, but reading it with the group today brought me face-to-face with times in my past when I felt God didn’t act when I needed him to. Though my experiences were different, I could relate to how Jairus may have felt – reading to the end of his story made me hopeful about the end of my own story.
After leading the group through the reading process, Dr. Carter Florence provided the group with a series of questions to help them understand the moment in scripture that stood out to them and to provide a framework for how to talk about the truth they had encountered in the text.
The weekend wrapped up with Dr. Anna Carter Florence preaching during Sunday morning worship and teaching that the Kingdom of God doesn't exist in some "parable universe," but right here in our midst. She encouraged us to look at the world with fresh eyes and to pay attention to what the world around us could show us of the Kingdom of God - perhaps even in the unexpected beauty of a delightfully sassy, wig shop clerk as she helps a person with cancer prepare for losing their hair.
You can listen to Dr. Carter Florence's sermon here: www.gracechurchcalgary.com/multimedia-archive/a-parable-universe/
We were also privileged to welcome the Foothills Brass who joined our Chancel Choir to provide us with a moving musical worship experience.
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence for sharing her time and her gifts with us. We also want to thank everyone who joined us for the weekend, the staff and volunteers who brought the event to together, and the Margaret and Robert Montgomery Fund whose generous contribution makes this event possible.
Preaching Grace 2018
Plans are already underway for next year's weekend. The Rev. Dr. Jason Byassee will be our speaker. Dr. Byassee is the inaugural holder of the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Hermeneutics at Vancouver School of Theology. His primary vocation is to reinvigorate today’s church with the best of ancient and contemporary wisdom for creatively faithful living.
Whether you attended this year or missed out, if you're as excited about next year's Preaching Grace as we are, fill out the form below, and we'll keep you informed. We won't overwhelm you; we'll just let you know about things like dates, topics, and when registration opens.