Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frustrated with the UUA

I want to lead a bible study for our church this fall. I am certainly not an expert in bible studies and am looking for a guide. I figure it will be a forum for discussion and discovery. UU comes out of the Jewish and Christian faiths and I feel that it very important to understand the books important to these faiths for a greater understanding of Unitarian Universalism. Anyway, I went to the UUA website to see if they might have a progressive Bible studyguide. They don't. I then checked out the UCC's website and found a great deal of information. Why don't we have this?! Why do we continually deny our heritage. Why don't we try to understand it better? Along that lines, why don't we publish our own bible? Where are the progressive bibles? Shouldn't we take this on? Is it out there and I just missed it?! After viewing the UCC website, I am feeling that the UUA could learn a lot.

For those who have led bible studies - any suggestions on how to go about it? Any good sources you know of?


NFQ said...

I strongly recommend Bart Ehrman's books. An agnostic today (though still a professor of religious studies), he writes about what he learned as an evangelical Christian in seminary as well as in research since. His specialty is the New Testament. In general, his books offer an honest, realistic take on the text. How it changed over time, the messages intended by the different writers, how to extrapolate backward to what was likely to have actually happened ... it's really good stuff.

Bill Baar said...

We're doing one in our Church and it's been a big hit. Enough demand to run two sections of it. They're using the Oxford Study Bible (I think, I haven't bought one yet) that has many many annotations. Otherwise the Minister does her own plan. Not sure what resources she referred back to but after all she's pretty steeped in it to begin with. Good luck!

Amy said...

John Buehrens' curriculum
Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals is a pretty good study guide. Available from the UUA Bookstore.

Sharon Wylie said...

The UCC is approximately five times the size of the UUA, and they presumably have five times the resources for their programs, including curriculum and study guide development.

Not only that, but Unitarian Universalists tend to under-fund our congregations AND our denomination. When congregations struggle with their budgets, one of the first places many of them cut is their contributions to the UUA. Contributing to the UUA is not even a requirement for being a member congregation.

Like you, I could make a list of resources and programming I wish the UUA provided. But until we can support our denomination generously, I think we need to be grateful for the many services and programs provided, and then take on the work of encouraging our congregations to give more.

Steve Caldwell said...

I second Amy's suggestion for Buehrens book - there is a small discussion group curriculum for this book on the Beacon Press web site. Good luck.

plaidshoes said...

Thank you for the suggestions! I will definitely look into them.

Sharon - I understand your point. You are right, the UCC budget is a lot larger than ours. I am on the CMwD board and am very aware of how easily funding to the UUA gets cut. I always advocate to increase it. BUT - sometimes I wonder how strategically we are using our resources. Maybe the UCC is doing so well is that they have a strong "core" that is supported with resources. Thus, people really understand where they are coming from and thus more likely to give, which leads to expansion, etc... I know it is not as easy as I lay out, but, I do wish the UUA would strengthen within and then spread its wings out.

Steve Caldwell said...

Here's the study guide on the Beacon Press web site:

Study Guide for Discussion Guide: Understanding the Bible

Here is the description from the Beacon Press web site:

This discussion guide divides Understanding the Bible into nine two-hour sessions. Encouraging both critical thinking and "imaginative compassion" (as Buehrens puts it), the program aims at enabling participants to become responsible interpreters and theologians in their own right.

Beacon Press is the UUA's publishing house and this book/study guide combination may be exactly what you're looking for.

The frustrating thing is there are a lot of UUA resources out there and the hard thing for some is finding them. If you're interested in religious education, you may want to join one of the UUA-sponsored email lists that support religious educators:

Overall Listing

Reach-l -- Discussion and sharing of UU Religious Education

Adult-RE -- Discussion on UU adult religious education program

These UUA-sponsored email lists are a free resource supported by the UUA Annual Program Fund.

Take care,

RevNaomi said...

The resources mentioned are quite good. The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship posts weekly lectionary reflections: http://www.uuchristian.org/

Meanwhile, my own experience with Bible studies (& I've lead many) is that we can too easily get caught up in intellectual considerations and not approach the texts as living water for our hearts and spirits today. For that reason, I begin with these questions, wanting people to do a naive reading first: what speaks to you? what frightens? what appeals? what contexts would this text make sense in? how would you translate that into a living word in our different cultures and ways of living today?

There are some fine curricula from the UCC, United Methodists, Disciples, and American Baptists. There are fabulous curricula from Tikkun. For deep reading, I'd also recommend Avivah Zornberg.

There are many bloggers who share Torah commentary and lectionary reflections weekly - the Velveteen Rabbi http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/ and Reflectionary - http://reflectionary.blogspot.com/ are just two I regularly read.

Yes, it would be lovely if Skinner House published more biblical curricula. But we'd need to be writing and submitting them, too.

The old Universalist Bible study curricula are often available for free through googlebooks, under The Sunday School Helper. I find them to be filled with gems, even though their Biblical criticism is now 4-5 generations old.

slt said...

I wish you well in your efforts. I have held a bi-weekly Bible Study at our church for about 6 years and have organized it in several ways. I also have led studies as a Lutheran and Episcopalian and the contrast has been interesting. A good source to start with may be "Reading the Bible Again For the First Time" by Marcus Borg. Blessings, BU

Batbogey said...

A lot of good suggestions here, along with resources I didn't find.

Maybe its a fault of mine, but I'd balk at leading a Bible study because I yearn for a scholar to lead the way and "unpack" scripture in a way that can really orient you in a good way.

Another idea is to invite a progressive Christian pastor to lead a study for UUs, tailoring it to an agreed-upon menu of interests and questions.

Cindy Breeding

Kenneth said...

If you want a simple process that will help people engage directly with a biblical text (rather than engaging with a text about the Bible), you should take a look at Friendly Bible Study by Joanne and Larry Spears. Their method uses questions (similar to those Naomi posed) and invites participants to write their answers, and then to share them with each other.

Amy said...

Naomi wrote:

Yes, it would be lovely if Skinner House published more biblical curricula. But we'd need to be writing and submitting them, too.

If you wrote one, I would buy it.


I don't think you need to be an expert. There are wonderful, accessible scholarly books about the Bible that have a non-literalist approach UUs can appreciate, and some of those have been mentioned in these comments. But I would start as Naomi recommends. Read the text like a story, a work of art, an attempt at persuasion, a history of your people. What is it saying to you? What resonates, what is confusing, what gives you guidance for your life . . . ?

We spend so much time saying "but of course this didn't really happen." Who bothers with that when they read folktales? It is very interesting to wonder what really happened and why this story was told to these people at this time, but even more interesting, to me, is what it says to us, now.

The best Bible-study is us-study.

Crystal said...

I've been thinking of starting a Bible study class at my UU congregation. Your comments and suggestions have been very helpful. Thank you!!