Thursday, 20 April 2017

Contextual Bible Study

Sarojini Nadar in front of Uppsala Cathedral
Today Professor Sarojini Nadar, who holds
the Desmond Tutu Chair of Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation in Africa
at the University of Western Cape in South Africa, visited us at the Church of Sweden Institute for Pastoral Education. Approximately thirty persons were present at the interactive workshop where we read a Bible narrative together. It was the story about the syrophoenician woman who meets Jesus. We read both the Mark 7 and the Matthew 15 versions. It was reassuring to see the engagement from students and teachers. The group consisted of students preparing to become deacons and pastors, teachers at the institute, academics from the Theological Faculty at the Uppsala University and staff members from Church of Sweden head office.

When a bible study is facilitated by theologians from the Ujamaa* tradition some things always strike me. First of all everybody in the room get an opportunity to participate and to speak. All contributions are written on a flip chart. Second, you never experience a rush, even if there is a time constraint. The facilitator is not in a hurry.

We arrived at interesting conclusions. One thing that a couple of persons picked up was the impression that Jesus didn’t want to help the woman directly. Instead he started a dispute with her which helped her to raise her own voice. Only then did Jesus respond positively. Somehow even Jesus came out from the conversation transformed. He also learnt something from the encounter. A question that was asked was if we are quick to help people instead of first engaging with the other person and wait for her or his own opinion. In such an interaction we might come out as the one who has received.

Much more could be said. Those who were present were very positive. The day before students at our institute, who study in Lund, also got a chance to meet her.

To me this way of reading the Bible together is something that we should use more in the parishes. The question that always comes up towards the end is how we make sense of the biblical text in our own context. How does it speak to us? This is of course essential. Only then transformation can take place.

The theme of the workshop was
Pedagogical underpinnings of the Contextual Bible Study Method
and included also a part where Sarojini explained how this pedagogy works. This was also appreciated.

* The Ujamaa Centre for Biblical and Theological Community Development and Research in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa is an interface between socially engaged biblical and theological scholars, organic intellectuals, and local communities of the poor, working-class, and marginalised. The Ujamaa Centre uses biblical and theological resources for individual and social transformation (from the website).

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