Old texts speak into a new pandemic

Old texts speak into a new pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to impact on our lives more than six months on, a Uniting Church minister is looking to the ancient psalms and prophets for answers.

On 20 October, Rev. Liam Miller will host a special panel discussion as part of his regular Love, Rinse, Repeat series. Panelists including Pilgrim Theological College’s Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Lyndal Sherwin, and Renee Evans will explore what the Old Testament’s Psalms and Prophets might have to say to us in 2020.

Rev. Miller is  Sydney Central Coast Presbytery’s New Growth Minister.

“Early on in the pandemic I produced a podcast episode/video on ‘how to read the Bible,’” he said.

“The idea behind that was that the usual structures in which many Christians traditionally read and hear Scripture had been removed, and so I wanted to provide a fun, accessible conversation about how we can approach the Bible without those familiar frames. This event takes that a bit further (and makes it more specific) in asking not only how we read the Bible, but how do we read these particular parts of the Bible (psalms and prophets) in the midst of a pandemic. What do they offer? What questions do they raise? What judgment and hope do they lay before us?”

“There’s a suspicion at the heart of this event that the psalms and the prophets are uniquely situated to speak into our current crisis. That, for the most part, these texts are about making meaning when systems of meaning making are destroyed. They are about giving hope, when all seems hopeless. They are about boldly proclaiming a future when a cataclysmic present seems to be obliterating the past. The suspicion is that these old texts can speak into a new pandemic.”

Taking audiences through this material is a diverse group of panelists.

“The panel is a great mix,” Rev. Miller said.

“We have a “special, expert guest” in Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, who is an Associate Professor at Pilgrim Theological College, teaching Old Testament. She has a strong commitment to the marginalised, and is adept at bringing Scripture into conversations with contemporary movements, crises, and questions.

“Then we have two lay Christians, both who’ve studied theology and worked in churches of various denominations, Lyndal Sherwin and Renee Evans. Both are passionate about the local church, working for justice, and in forming community in an increasingly lonely world.

“My belief is that they will not only have a bunch of great questions to ask Monica and our audience but priceless insights into how these texts speak into our homes, workplaces, and churches. And then there’s me, who’s living in a small beach town hoping to start a new church and wondering how these songs, poems, speeches, and stories from however many thousands of years ago might speak meaningfully into the lives of people who live up here.”

‘Psalms and Prophets in a Pandemic’ streams live on Toukley Uniting Church’s Facebook page at 7pm on 20 October. The discussion will later be available as an episode of the Love, Rinse, Repeat podcast.

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