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Focus on scriptural women

01 March 2013

Sarah Hillman finds this multi-tasking approach confusing

Walking with Gospel Women: Interactive Bible meditations
Fiona Stratta
BRF £7.99
Church Times Bookshop £7.20 (Use voucher code CT175) 

I HAVE to admit to being some-what confused about the purpose of Fiona Stratta's Walking with Gospel Women. It is described as a collection of imaginative meditations, written for small groups of women, but which can also be used by individuals and larger groups. In places, however, it appears to be more like a Bible-study course, since each meditation is followed by a set of discussion or reflection questions. For me, the attempt to join the two approaches to the biblical material has not quite worked. Others, however, may appreciate the mix-and-match approach of spiritual reflection and study.

The book's material was used successfully in two groups - one of young mothers, the other of women aged 40 to 60 - before publication was even thought about; so it is perhaps I who am missing the point.

Stratta suffered a period of ill-health, during which she found it hard to read. So she started retelling biblical stories to herself as if each character were telling his or her own story. When she shared her idea with friends, it was met with a positive response, which led to the use of the material in the trial groups, before the Bible Reading Fellowship commissioned this book.

The suggested method of using the book is for a small group to begin by looking together at the related scriptural passage; then to have an individual read the monologue before a period of discussion and reflection; and then end with prayer and an opportunity for participants to record what they believe that God has said to them, or things that they have found particularly relevant.

The quality of the reader will be crucial here. The meditations take the form of a monologue: female biblical characters telling their stories from their own perspective. Mary, the mother of Jesus, features in a number of them; among other people included are Elizabeth, the Samaritan woman, Simon's mother-in-law, and Salome. Read well, they will allow listeners' imaginations to be engaged. But these supposedly spoken words do not, to me, always sound like oral transcriptions; in some of them, the style is more like a written piece, which I found somewhat off-putting.

I do not want to be too negative: there is some good material here that will appeal to some; but I fear that people may rush too quickly into the study before allowing enough time for the meditations to sink in and take root.

The Revd Sarah Hillman is Priest-in-Charge of Puddletown, Tolpuddle and Milbourne with Dewlish.

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