A Celebration of Scripture
When the Rev. Laura Barbins asks new members why they've chosen to join Celebration Lutheran Church
, Chardon, Ohio, she often hears the same answer.
"Because the Bible is at the center of what you do."
Pastor Barbins is delighted by that response, but admits, "I'm not sure that would have been as evident before we implemented the Book of Faith Initiative. Those comments are a nice affirmation of what we are doing."
Book of Faith, an initiative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), encourages members to deepen their knowledge about Scripture through study and conversation. This five-year collaborative program was launched in 2008 and leads up to the ELCA's 25th anniversary in 2012.
Celebration is one of 100 congregations in the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod who are participating in the Book of Faith Initiative, according to Karen Kaufman, the synod's Resource Center Director.
The impact of the initiative on the congregation hasn't gone unnoticed by member Paul Gochnour.
"As a lifelong Lutheran, I haven't always seen a lot of Lutherans walking into church carrying their Bibles," Paul said. "Book of Faith has brought the Bible more into focus for people [at Celebration], myself included."
Eye-opening Approaches to Reading Scripture
The creativity of Celebration's Book of Faith leadership team has played a large role in the congregation's enthusiastic response.
Members have been challenged to "Beat the Pastor" in a trivia game or imagine themselves flying like eagles to and from Wittenberg, Germany, tallying their "miles" (i.e., chapters read) all the while.
It's a great way to incorporate "visuals and a sense of movement and achievement," Pastor Barbins said.
Through another activity called S†OW — "Scripture of the Week" — the pastor encourages Celebration members to "stow God's word in their hearts," by referencing the chosen texts into worship, meetings, newsletter articles and more.
Paul Gochnour has enjoyed the interesting conversations spurred by doing the daily journaling exercise with his wife Vickie.
"Sometimes we found completely different themes or messages in the same passage," Paul marvels. "It's [eye-opening] to see someone else's point of view [on Scripture]."
Taking the time to immerse himself in the Bible also has shed new light on the familiar, Paul says. "When you sit quietly and meditate on a passage, you gain new insights. The Scriptures come alive."
And it's fun, as testified by the laughter they often share together.
"Over the past two years there has been a renewed spirit," Pastor Barbins agrees. "Members are not just reading the Bible; they also are reflecting on God's word and growing deeper in their spiritual lives."