I’ve been editing the Barclay Press Friends Bible study curriculum, Illuminate, for just about two years now, and it has been a really fun and meaningful experience to study, write about, and edit a quarterly Bible study with a Quaker bent that has so far covered 19 books of the Bible, plus another three for this summer’s quarter on Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Friends from a range of traditions all over the country (and some in other countries) use the curriculum to guide their small groups through weekly gatherings. This curriculum includes a lesson each week as well as a Friendly Perspective (an experiential or personal reflection on the week’s topic). I’ve had the privilege of working with around 60 contributors so far.
This summer, we have the exciting opportunity to collaborate with Pendle Hill (a Quaker study and retreat center) for an Illuminate Summer Speaker Series with six sessions on our Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians study. Ten Illuminate contributors will share about their lessons and Friendly Perspectives, and there will be opportunity for dialogue and discussion. The series will run every second and fourth Monday from June 14–August 23, 2021, 7:30–9pm Eastern.
I get to share at the June 14 and July 26 sessions on Ephesians 1 and Philippians 1. I was inspired by studying these chapters in what are termed the Prison Letters. The new communities that were forming in the first century had to be courageous in the face of persecution as they lived out Jesus’ message of good news, as evinced by the fact that the letters were written from prison. This message was good for those who were economically and socially disadvantaged by the Roman empire around them and by the religious expressions in their cultural milieu. Proclaiming Jesus’ message of good news for the poor rather than the Caesar’s message of good news through military pacification was dangerous, but was also exciting, liberating, and life-giving for those who participated in these communities. In Philippians 1, Paul speaks directly about the insecurity of the many members of the new church community who did not have the privilege of citizenship status. He called on the church to be a family and supportive body for one another: their citizenship was in Christ and the community they were forming. There is much in these letters that speaks to our condition today as we continue to work toward a more equitable and just society. What if we live out love so transformatively that we were one body, caring for and supporting one another fully, advocating for one another’s full rights, and making sure all our needs are met? Can we catch this vision as Friends today?
Come and discuss this with me this summer! Register here.