The first substantive conversations of each day take place in our Bible study groups. There is no sermon at the Eucharist, and breakfast is a mad dash, so the first opportunity to reflect and speak is in our group of eight.
We're working through the Gospel of John using a study guide prepared especially for Lambeth by a Bible Study Team lead by Gerald West, Professor of Old Testament at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, and including Mary Chilton Calloway of the School of Theology at Fordham and Jenny Te Paa of the College of St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand. The study guide is different than the commentary we read in preparation for Lambeth, and it focuses on the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
My Bible study group is all male, and seven of us are from the US, England and Australia. The eighth member of our group is from Chile. Despite this, there is a wide variety of perspectives and experience. Among other things, one of us is an environmental activist, one of us is evangelical, and one is a military chaplain. Our conversations have been lively.
Each study begins and ends with prayer and includes the reading of the text and of a short commentary. Today we read about John the Baptist making straight a path in the wilderness for the Lord. The discussion question was, "What does it mean to make a straight path for the Lord in our context?" One of us spoke about removing barriers so the unchurched could see Jesus. Another spoke of the "parallel universe" that the church exists in and opening doors so that people could connect their every day lives with the sacraments and traditions of the church. Still others spoke of speaking simply and acting directly so that people could see what it means to lead Christian lives. And we all agreed that our post-modern world has made it difficult for some people to see the relevance of the church and that our devotion of our Anglican traditions is sometimes a major impediment for folks who are trying to understand the church. Rich conversation!