The power of Bible reading in the midst of the parish life

by Fredrik Lautmann last modified 25 July 2019 04:55 PM
The power of Bible reading in the midst of the parish life

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

25 July 2019

As senior clergy, I have more and more realized the importance of a living, reflecting, open Bible reading in the midst of the parish life.

From start of my service as pastor, I was very keen on focusing on Bible studies as a complement to the Sunday services. But I soon found that it became more of a sitting sermon instead of sharing and reflecting together. The pastor is the expert and the others do not think they have anything to say.

From 1978-80 as a Scandinavian pastor in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I found what I had been longing for: 40 Bible studies of the theologian and Carmelite monk Carlos Mesters. I read them as novels and translated quite a few of them to Swedish, then returned to Sweden as vicar in Lesjöfors 1980.

It was such a good experience, which led to several groups and a Bible study book in 1983 “ Vårt dagliga liv (Our daily life)”, in cooperation with three colleagues.  I translated a few studies from Mesters and then we made Swedish examples and tested them locally where we lived.  The method is from Luke 24, “See, Judge, Act”, which has given life to the movement of Basic Christian Communities in Brazil.

This experience from Brazil, transformed my view of Bible studies to connect our everyday life with the Bible. It also changed my role as vicar and clergy how I served in all kinds of ways. Already the church father St Augustine told us that God wrote two books: 1) The Book of Life, Nature, Relations and; 2) the Bible.

This transformed the role of the Church in Lesjöfors, from being useful only for funerals to become a motivator for a better life of “justice and peace”. Lots of things happened in the area of Church and Society and renewal of worship with help from many Bible groups.

Since then I found that practising open-minded Bible studies in the midst of the parish as a reflection of what do we do, is like using a spring of freshwater in our pilgrimage for justice and peace

Later as vicar and dean in Leksand, Dalarna, Sweden during from 2001-13 I had the benefit of leading a parish project of creating a contextual Via Sacra, as a pilgrim’s path of 900 meters around the church of Leksand.

The path featured cut stones with Bible texts of the 15 traditional stations of the cross from the condemnation of Jesus to the resurrection. My purpose was Christian education as well as a tourist attraction of good art in a wonderful place.

On the inauguration in 2012 by the bishop and the governor together, I realized that this was a summary of parish work, where my vision always has been, to combine the everyday life with the words of the Bible, a way of popular reading of the Bible with good exegetical background, a habit I learned from my time as pastor in Brazil.

With the use of “Via Sacra” a colleague and I made questions for reflection to the Bible texts of the 15 stations. Regularly the parish invites people for a short pilgrimage, walking Via Sacra with these reflections of each station of the cross and its meaning today.

Example:

Station 2. Jesus carries the cross. Text: John 19:17

a) Describe a difficult situation in your life, which felt like a heavy cross to carry?
b) What is the most common thing people worry about today?
c) What can we do together to reduce concern?

Experience: The 15 stations of Via Sacra are a very good tool for popular Bible reading.

As an ecumenical officer at the Central Church Office in Uppsala 2013-15 I became a part of a collaboration with the Brazilian theologians Paulo Ueti and Maria Soave Buscemi from the Center for Bible Studies (CEBI). The collaboration resulted in two workshops in Liberating Bible over 8 days each, joining the academy and leaders for popular Bible readings, during 2014 and 2015 with participants from South Africa, Tanzania, Brazil and Sweden, with Paulo and Maria Soave as excellent facilitators. This collaboration continues still with some of the dioceses.

Experience: CEBI has a very special knowledge and experience of joining exegetics and popular readings of the Bible.

A friend of mine from the time in Sao Paulo, bishop Mauro Morelli has followed my pastoral way and we have a constant sharing of experiences in liberating Bible with pastoral consequences. He invited me to his place in Canastra, Brazil for Lent and Easter 2018  to work with Bible studies. I went. We translated the Bible studies from Via Sacra to Portuguese and spent six weeks in a Catholic parish, sharing life, Bible and worship.

During this visit, I discovered an inspiring Bible material from CEBI over Solomon´s wisdom for the month of the Bible in Brazil 2018. I got very inspired, translated it to Swedish and am now testing it here.

Experience: A living, reflecting, open Bible reading in the midst of the parish life, functions as a flowing spring of inspiration.

* Fredrik Lautmann is a newly retired clergy of the Church of Sweden with a burning interest of living a life in abundance with the tools of liberating Bible reflections in midst of the parish. He served the church for more than 45 years as a pastor, vicar, and dean. Ordained in the diocese of Karlstad, in 1972, he also worked in the dioceses of Uppsala and Västerås, and as the ecumenical officer of the church (2013 - 2015). He continued his service as substitute vicar until 2018, and today he is a voluntary coworker. The experience to work as a pastor in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 1978-80, offered him inspiration for continuous dialogue and reflection with Brazilians connected to Basic Christian Communities, Popular Bible reading and church renewal in the line of a pilgrimage of justice and peace.

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The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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