Friday, November 12, 2004

Reading Communally

I was sitting in bed, talking with my dear wife, reading either Colossians Remixed or Story as Torah, when I realized that I have a 'community' with books. They are my mentors (the authors, I mean), they are my conversation partners, they are teachers and pastors. However, this got me thinking about how individualistic this is. I have a person laying next to me that is not sharing in this profound conversation, but instead is totally oblivious to what her husband is learning and hearing. Is there a way to read communally?

Back in the day, literacy wasn't so high. Texts had to be read to people (hence the origin of 'let the reader understand' --> see my blog on Targums) aloud and then interpreted/taught by a real person. Today, in church, everyone has a separate Bible that they read without really needing a pastor to read the text along. What if we put those Bibles back in the pew and listened, our postures attuned to hear the word of the Lord of the universe, and just listened to the words? Many people would say that they don't get things from just 'listening', they need to see it. Granted, people have different learning styles (auditory, visual, kinestetic), but we all should be able to be conversant in the different styles--we can learn to learn auditorily. I know when I started this experiment (under the suggestion of Dr. Jonathan Watt of Geneva College), I wasn't very good. My mind would wander or I'd get stuck on one verse and thinking about it (although that isn't such a bad thing). Nowadays, it is still hard--but it is getting better. There is a 'community' to listening together, a respect to the Word and the pastor/elder/layperson bringing it, and a rest from having to do everything in everyway everytime.

What about the other styles of learning in church? Visual could be a Scripture passage on an overhead or Powerpoint or in the bulletin. Kinestetic (pardon the spelling) could be a responsive reading or a lined-out song or a communal chant. All the styles could easily be addressed by a conscientious church.

What about at home? Reading to family members isn't a bad idea. Why do bedtime stories cease to exist around age 8? Why not have one family member read Scripture during family worship and switch who reads each week? It doesn't have to stop with the Bible though. A revival in the art of storytelling (and story listening) is in order! If we got our heads out of our books, maybe we could see another person's reaction to our reading worlds.

There is a sensitivity to that. If we read a passage about adultery in the Bible, we can minister to someone who has been adulted against or that needs to confess or that needs to learn the basics of Christian morality. Communion can really happen with merciful hearts that do justice to God's word by humbly listening (Micah. 6:8).

1 comment:

~greg said...

I think that you are forgetting about the most important storytellers of our day, movies and music. This is done communally, going to theatres, listening to music together, although we tend to be individualistic about this as well. Our very way of life is a cultural story that we are telling others also.
What needs to happen is the living out of the story in order for it to communicate beyond the individual. (see Leslie Newbiggin in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society). I think the hard part of this is the coherence of life with our reading and hearing of stories, we tend to fall into the postmodern way of just mixing and matching and making up our own story instead of seeking to be a part of the big story.
Finally, I think the individualistic nature of our society is anti-creational, that is we think that humans are not relational and communal, when in fact we cannot exist otherwise.