three years ago, rob and i started a gathering called "thinplace"
“thinplace“ was the overall name for several gatherings that met in cincinnati throughout the month. but since a friend has asked how she might begin her own in her gathering in her new town, i'll focus on one aspect to begin:
"thinplace journaling" became our regular house church like gathering that we hosted on sunday nights. the idea was to engage scripture through journaling and art, not through a bible study or a sermon/teaching.
usually our focus was the gospel passage from the lectionary...but we also used the church year to base our scripture choices off ...for example...during epiphany (the season of the church year after Christmas…Jan. 6-til Lent begins) we focused longer on the birth narrative, the visit of the magi and on the life of jesus as a child rather than jumping forward into his ministry.
our desire was for people to "get" the story...to engage the gospel in it's context, not just certain verses or certain themes. Everyone was encouraged to bring a journal and a bible but we also had paper, pens and bibles available along with art supplies.
We began thinplace gatherings with food, snacks and/or dessert and sometimes we would start with a pot luck dinner. in the beginning, i hosted the food because i wanted people to know they were welcome and expected and as time went on, everyone was invited to bring things to share. everyone got to participate and share their gifts.
As people gathered we would check in and introduce each other. Then we would introduce the format we used and what to expect. There was a hand out with the opening psalm, the gospel passage of day and few questions to consider while journaling and a closing prayer. we used lectio divina as our listening process for the scripture passage. At this point, we would ask for three readers and then open by praying a psalm together.
Then the readers would read the passage slowly and we would all listen and allow holy spirit to speak through the scripture and highlight it for each of us. (usually we had both male and female voices)
There are more traditional forms of lectio but this is what we used :
1. Listen to the Scripture, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you. 2. First time through, what is the word or phrase that jumps out at you...that
stands out to you? 3. Second time through, what is the feeling or emotion around this word orphrase? Or what is the memory around it? 4. Third time through, how is Jesus is asking you to respond to this passage, or to the word or phrase?
As time went on we also encouraged questions that came up in the passage. Such as What didn’t make sense? or what do you wish you knew more about?
After the three readings, people got comfortable, and spread out to the other room. Everyone was silent and journaled and/or used the art supplies available to respond to the scripture passage. The room was quiet for 30 minutes, then we came back together to share. People were invited to share if they wanted to. Or to ask questions. We made sure that people didn’t do much “cross talk”…ie didn’t allow folks to criticize or condemn what someone else experienced. It was always amazing to see where the Holy Spirit took people and to learn from each other. After everyone who wanted to got to share, we would close with an experiential response that had something to do with the scripture passage and then prayed the closing prayer together.
At thinplace journaling, the coffee table became the “altar” piece…the place where we set up a display or symbols to convey the passage of the day…and where the experiential element would be set up. Also there often would be a “take away, “ a symbol, that would remind us of what we’d learned that week. Once we passed around gold glitter and sprinkled ourselves as a reminder that we wanted to get the dust of the rabbi…(a la rob bell ) on us..the glitter represented our desire to follow the king…and get the dust of the king on us!
On a personal note, I’ve followed Jesus a very long time and studied and taught the bible but I can say that through journaling from scripture and having the opportunity to create from a passage, God definitely taught me amazing things and I remember so much more of it!
TO GET STARTED:
gather a group of friends and their friends
- pick a place
- you need 1. 5-2 hours could be longer if you like to hang out and talk before and after
- have food! Especially chocolate
- use the lectionary and/or the church calendar for the scripture to journal from
- have questions that could spark journaling but are just considerations not “have tos”
- start small…try it for a month or two and see how it goes
- think about what you want the group to “take away” from the passage and that’s where you start with the experiential element…
what’s naturally in the passage? Touch, taste, sounds, colors, items?
How can you respond to the text in order to remember it?
8. start a collection of prayers, written by others, fathers and mothers of the church , and those written by your community to use as closing prayers.
we used many from Celtic Daily Prayer
9. Start early to share the job of curating the gathering…help others learn to “lead” and create so it’s not all on one or two people.