A group of 20 Colombian clergy from the Episcopal Church of Colombia were organised by the Trinity Foundation, with support from Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD), to attend a four day workshop to share experiences and learn more about economic empowerment, gender-based violence, and contextual bible studies.
The Trinity Foundation is an Episcopal initiative in Cali, Colombia, that works with the community to develop and share learning on savings groups, education, human sexuality, human rights, and on fighting poverty and inequality.
The objective of the workshop was to familiarise the clergy with the key themes and encourage their commitment and involvement in community development. From faith and spirituality the group was invited to recognise the community development work that it is being done by the Trinity Foundation, and how it is an essential part of the mission of the church and every Christian.
Revd. Elineide, from the Anglican Service of Diaconia and Development (SADD) in Brazil, shared a presentation on gender-based violence and SADD resources available. She also shared her work as the coordinator of a shelter for abused women in Ariquemes, Rondonia, in Northern Brazil.
Statistics on violence against women are very alarming and are a top priority for the church and church organisations, as a matter of faith and justice.
The clergy were challenged by her presentation and expressed public commitment to work together with other groups and within the church, to be part of the global efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls.
A study of ‘The Road to Emmaus’ (Luke 24:13-35) was then looked at from the context of the participants. By paying close attention to the journey of the disciples, the participants found a method to work with their community to overcome violence, sadness, hunger, desperation and disconnection. This particular text from Luke´s gospel was used in early Christianity as a way to remind communities to get back to discipleship, relationship and teaching; the return to Jerusalem was a metaphor for building healing and strengthening the community to fight to transform structures of power.
The group remembered a saying: “I was born in connection. I am hurt in disconnection. I will be healed in reconnection”. They decided on these steps to rebuilding relationship with the community:
- Taking the initiative to approach people
- Approach them and connect with them
- Listen and show interest in relationship
- Ask questions about their context and show concern for their personal situation
- Be quiet so that others can have their voices heard
- Respect the people’s voices and listen to them carefully, learn from them
- Challenge them to recount memories and tell their own stories
- Choose theologies and images of God and the Messiah that liberate and empower rather those that enslave and oppress or silence
- Practice hospitality – be yourself and make your place as a hospital, a place to heal and recover
- Share resources: your home, meals, the table, conversation
- Be happy with the process: the process helps to open our eyes and see life in a different way
- Get back to the community – building healing and transforming communities
- Share stories and strengthen relationships
Paulo Ueti, a Bible scholar, also worked with other biblical texts where the topics of women’s and community empowerment were heard, and the active struggle for justice and equity was encouraged. He said, “It concerns Christian spirituality to practice theology that embraces healing and human rights, peace-building and prophetic voices against violence at every level.”
The focus on the processes within and through these Biblical stories is important to highlight the way that modern-day communities and vulnerable people are shown. They helped the group acknowledge their own capacity to influence their context as Christians, peacemakers and change makers.
Contextual Bible Study
Contextual Bible Studies are similar to many other forms of Bible study that have come from socially engaged Biblical scholars, intellectuals, and ordinary Christian ‘readers’ (whether literate or not) of the Bible.
One method is the See-Judge-Act method, where the Bible study begins with an analysis of the local context (See), and then re-reads the Bible to allow the biblical text to speak to the context (Judge), and then moves to action as we respond to what God is saying (Act).
Social analysis enables us to understand our reality; re-reading the Bible enables us to judge whether our reality is as God intends it to be; and our plan of action enables us to work with God to change our reality.
Contextual Bible Study is a form of the See-Judge-Act method. First, Contextual Bible Study is always situated within the social analysis and the needs of particular communities of the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalised. It is their perspective on reality that shapes the study.
Second, Contextual Bible Study provides a way of doing theological analysis and “reading the signs of the times”. The Bible is read carefully and closely in order to hear its distinct voice within its own literary and socio-historical context, thereby providing a theological resource from which to reflect on and engage with our social analysis.
And third, Contextual Bible Study always ends with the theological resource provided by the study to plan for action and social transformation.