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January 20, 2015

Bible study brings scripture alive for Lent

A new contextual Bible study is set to bring the message of the scriptures to Anglicans and Lutherans in a relevant, accessible way this Lenten season.

Endorsed by members of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission (JALC), the shared resource is available free online and represents another initiative in the full communion partnership between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC).

The Rt. Rev. Terry Dance, Bishop of Norfolk in the ACC Diocese of Huron and a member of JALC, prepared the study for Lent during a sabbatical to help church members engage with each other and the biblical text while providing guidance to ministry in their own lives.

“This study is designed specifically for a church in the Canadian context, dealing with the kind of issues that we’re dealing with,” Bishop Dance said.

“There’s a phrase, diakonia, which talks about the fact that discipleship is inextricably bound to service, and that service is something which belongs to the whole people of God, not just those of us who are ordained.”

Dance is a long-time proponent of contextual Bible study, an approach to studying scripture that examines biblical passages from multiple aspects—literary, historic, and ultimately the modern cultural context participants live in.

The bishop spent an estimated 200 hours writing the study, which addresses scriptural readings for Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter and connects experiences in the life of Christ to the mission and ministry of the church today.

While questions asked in the study are the same across Canada, responses are likely to vary.

“In suburban London, Ont., the opportunities and possibilities for ministry would be different than they would be in, say, northern British Columbia or Vancouver,” Dance said.

“The needs that exist in the local community would be different…It gets people, I think, talking at a fairly serious level about who we are as a church, what it means to be a church, what it means to be a follower of Christ, and begins to deepen the level of conversation.”

To help the Bible study reach the widest possible audience, Bishop John Chapman of the Diocese of Ottawa examined the first draft and offered suggestions to make the final product useful for laypersons and theological experts alike.

“If you’re doing a theological work that is to serve the whole church, then it needs to be accessible to the whole church,” Chapman noted.

Meanwhile, Dean Peter Wall, Anglican member and co-chair of JALC, looked over the final draft to ensure the study would prove an ideal resource for both Anglicans and Lutherans.

“This is an impressive piece of work—carefully and comprehensively looking at the Sunday readings for Lent in this [church] Year B,” Wall wrote in an email.

“It provides good and easily used resources for a facilitator and also gives excellent 'extra' background reading material for those who wish to use it. I believe that it would deeply enrich one's journey through the Sundays in Lent.”

Both the ELCIC and ACC will promote the Bible study online. An overview and resources for the first, second and third weeks of Lent are now available. Resources for the fourth and fifth weeks of Lent as well as Palm Sunday, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection will be available at the end of January or sooner.

The Rev. André Lavergne, a member of JALC and assistant to the bishop, ecumenical and interfaith for the ELCIC, praised the study for its “grassroots quality.”

“It follows the lectionary, and that’s a lectionary that is shared between Anglicans and Lutherans…It’s very accessible, whether you’re an Anglican or a Lutheran,” Lavergne said.

“We’re going to be reading the same texts during Lent and therefore studying the same material, so that’s very helpful.”

Click here to download the Lenten Bible study: http://www.elcic.ca/ecumenical/2015LentStudy.cfm

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 145,376 baptized members in 594 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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