This week felt like the first week of school. After a 3-month hiatus, we resumed the adult faith development programs at my church. Tuesday was “teacher preparation day”, Wednesday was the resumption of our monthly book club, and Thursday was the start of a new weekly program. (Additional programs will begin in October.) When I texted my sister about going “back to school,” she replied, “Pretty amazing that at this season of our lives we still have a back-to-something opportunity.” She reminds me of how grateful I am to be engaged in study and work that I love.
We resumed our book club brown-bag-lunch meetings with 15 women, two of whom are new this year. This month, we discussed Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. A few women, including me, had read the book when it was published in 2011. They found, as I did, that reading the story a second time was equally satisfying and for some, even more enjoyable. I was not sure if my enjoyment was influenced by my connections with Harvard University and Martha’s Vineyard, but readers without those personal connections also enjoyed the book.
You may wonder why a church book club is reading novels that many other groups read and discuss. When we formed the book club last year, I thought we would be reading and reflecting on “spiritual books.” While we have read one or two non-fiction books and memoirs, the group seems to prefer contemporary novels. What makes this group a “church book club” is not necessarily the books we choose, but what we, as readers, share in common. Our discussions are influenced by our beliefs and by an environment in which it is safe to talk about spiritual matters and values that matter to us. It is a safe environment in which to express contrary opinions without fear of ridicule or recrimination. Several women mentioned that they had missed our monthly gatherings over the summer.
On Thursday, we initiated a weekly program in a new format and time slot. We will be following a Great Courses DVD program called The Holy Land Revealed. The instructor, Dr. Jodi Magness, is an archaeologist who teaches at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. We plan to view two of the 36 lectures each week until we complete the series or people are no longer interested, whichever comes first! Most of our programs are in the mornings, so to avoid conflicts with other monthly programs, we have scheduled this series for early afternoon. We plan to view one 25-minute lecture, take a short refreshment break, then view a second lecture. To be honest, we anticipated that maybe three or four people might be interested; 17 men and women showed up for the first session!
Looking at the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) from an archaeological perspective introduces ideas that may contradict what we thought we knew about the Bible. The series will certainly shed new light on our understanding. I had some concerns about the technical nature of the archaeological vocabulary and explanations, and the “density” of information packed into each lecture. The group found the explanations to be clear and interesting and seemed eager to continue next week. We all agreed that trying to view more than two lectures per session would be too much, partly because of information overload, but also because we could not sit much longer! No doubt, in future posts I will be writing about what we are learning each week.
I leave you with a prayer for the start of the school year, adapted from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.
Lord our God,
in your wisdom and love
you surround us with the mysteries of the universe.
Send your spirit upon us
and fill us with your wisdom and blessings.
Grant that we may devote ourselves to our studies
and draw ever closer to you,
the source of all knowledge.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Q. What are your experiences with back-to-school?
Q. In what ways are you continuing your own education in topics that matter to you?