Finding answers in biblical 'reflection'

January 26, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

The Rev. John de Beer says he has a method to help answer some of life's more trying questions: Think about your experiences and relate them to a passage from the Bible.

Mr. de Beer, co-author of "The Art of Theological Reflection," taught a class based on the Bible last fall for his parishioners at St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park. Next week, he will begin teaching a similar class at a nearby bookstore.

The two-hour classes will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays through February at the Shepherd's Nook on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard near McKinsey Road.

"The purpose is to help people find greater meaning in their life," Mr. de Beer said, "to make them feel like a living part of their religious tradition, so that we know our stories today are a part of the Christian stories."

Group members will participate in discussions and exercises, and ask questions about the book.

Terry Brandon, owner of Shepherd's Nook, said the class is not for pious parishioners. "This is aimed toward people who are not churchgoers," he said. "Our angle is more for the person who's really questioning life, who wants to know if God is in their life."

Some religious background or tradition is needed to understand the method, Mr. de Beer said.

Mr. de Beer described his technique this way: Start by picking an event in your life and thinking about your feelings and reactions to it, then create an image in your mind that relates to those feelings -- someone doing flips at a time of great joy, for example. Next, find a passage in the Bible that relates to that image. The passage may provide insight or raise questions about how you live your life. In the last step, you consider actions that you can take to make life more desirable based on your reflection.

Betsy Cole of St. Martin's, who took the class, said it helped her relationship with her daughters. "The course helps you to crystallize what the problem is," she said. Mr. de Beer "is particularly good at helping people to slow down and reflect on what's going on."

Melissa Timmerman, who also took the class, said the book helped her faith grow. "It helped me develop an understanding that my faith isn't just an answer. It's not a concrete answer; it's a journey of faith learning. It's an exploration, constant questions, and through those questions I can take the Scripture and apply them to life."

Mr. de Beer said the book emerged from a series of theology courses he and others were teaching to laymen at extension centers that the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., has established throughout the country. The ideas crystallized as he and the other group leaders talked with each other about methods that worked best in their classes.

He and a colleague, Patricia O'Connell Killen, began writing the book in 1985 because "what we'd been learning seemed important for other people to learn about," Mr. de Beer said.

The book was published in September, and Mr. de Beer began a class for his church members in October. About 10 people have signed up for the February class, leaving room for 10 to 14 more.

To sign up for Mr. de Beer's Theological Reflection class, call Terry Brandon at 647-2033.

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