Reflections from the February Bartimaeus Institute
Thoughts from Kyle Vickers - Toronto, Canada -
The Bartimaeus Institute was the first scripture study I ever participated in. I say this because I left Oak View knowing that we'd discovered things in Mark's Gospel that we hadn't seen before. Imagine that! We weren't taught what to read: we were asked to pay attention to details within the text, given time to talk it over with others, and then empowered to hear the read it again as a community.
It was a profound experience. And it was the kind of scripture study I want to keep doing.
The method used at the BI differs from other studies, where the teacher tells the students what the text means. Those studies focus on materials outside of the text: commentaries, social histories, theological principles. Sure, these are important tools (e.g. Ched told us the word 'gospel' was appropriated from Roman propaganda!). But at the BI, the focus was on details within the text. By paying attention to character, setting, episode, and plot, we saw that it was possible for anyone to read the scriptures. You don't need to be a biblical scholar: you just have to be willing to "get your hands dirty" with the text.
I am still in awe of how Ched and the BCM team make this kind of study possible. They made it look so easy!
As for the activists, farmers, pastors, scholars, and musicians gathered for the Institute: I've never worked with a more focused and generous group of people. And for Ched and Elaine to open their home to us like they did . . . wow! The Church was certainly present in Oak View.
Thoughts from BCM/Abundant Table intern Julia Baker -
When I think about my Goshen College major— an Interdisciplinary one with concentrations in Women’s Studies, Journalism and Art (photography focus)—I see that I really majored in Story. Stories of gender, written story and stories told through a camera lens. I have always loved story, I often wish I could be 10 again just home from the library with a new stack of books and with no other responsibilities in life other than to curl up in a large chair and pour through the words.
In all this love for story and deep belief in its power I am kind of embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until a few weeks ago at the Bartimaeus Institute that I realized--OH the Bible is a story…realized that Mark sat down to write the gospel and thought about narrative structure. He was intentional as he crafted thinking about foreshadowing, plot, character, and setting with a keen attention to details.
I have often felt insecure, as I did the week of the institute, about not being incredibly Biblically literate or very proficient when it comes to talking theology. But as Ched guided us through a week of learning to read Mark through a Socio-Literary lens—with eyes on the story structure, I felt some of those old insecurities melt and the text come alive in ways I have never experienced before.
To start the week Ched shared this poem of Leslie Marmon Silko’s below, sharing how studying the scriptures with the intentionality of taking the time out and really delving for the week is an incredibly counter-cultural thing to do. It was a counter-cultural week I felt gifted to be a part of, a week that is now a part of my story.
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren't just for entertainment.
Don't be fooled
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off illness and death.
You don't have anything
if you don't have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can't stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.
Leslie Marmon Silko