1. What have been your experiences of suffering, either personally or by people around you? What are the biggest challenges of dealing with long-term suffering? Have you seen someone’s identity or personality change as a result of suffering? How have relationships been affected?
- Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable. People who suffer live with difficult questions. It is good to discuss them.
1. How big is the problem of poverty in your community? What local initiatives have tried to reduce poverty? Have they been successful? What circumstances lead to high levels of poverty? Do you have a sense of hope that the problems of poverty can be overcome?
"The poor will be with you always.” That is the message that seems to have been so frequently taken away from the gospel when we talk about poverty. That’s not a very encouraging message to someone who has been tasked with coming up with a way to end it.
1. How important is the Bible in your life? Do you think the church has lost its commitment to the Bible? Is your church presently wrestling with any passages of Scripture? Which ones have you wrestled with in the past? Are there passages that the church simply ignores?
1. What powerful stories have you heard in your congregation? Who did the telling? What was the setting? What made the story powerful? How did it influence the teller or the listeners? Was it important that the teller was physically present and not recorded on a video clip?
1. Who in your congregation takes a leadership role in interpreting the Bible? How do they acquire that role? What happens if anyone challenges their interpretation? Who has been most influential in the development of your personal understanding of the Bible?
1. Bruce Hiebert says we will make better ethical decisions if our brains are filled with biblical images. Do you find his arguments convincing? Have we been doing a good job of immersing ourselves in the biblical stories? Have we been filling our minds with too many non-biblical images?
1. Tom Yoder Neufeld says that teaching and learning are acts of faith, especially when it comes to sacred texts such as the Bible (page 6). What learning or teaching experiences have stretched or deepened your faith? Are there settings that are more effective than a traditional classroom? What factors encourage or hinder us from being eager to learn?
1. How has your community been impacted by the drive for economic development? What has your community lost through development and what has it gained? How are decisions made about when and where development will happen? Is there a role for the church in these decisions?
Clouds hang over the Haisla community of Kitamaat Village, just across Douglas Channel from the proposed site of the Northern Gateway supertanker terminal. (Photo by Will Braun)
I never expected that Enbridge—the Calgary-based pipeline company best known for its contentious Northern Gateway proposal and a nasty spill from one of its U.S. lines in 2010—would push its way so far into my life.
1. Wendy and Phil Reimer describe some instances when God intervened in the lives of Christians. Can you think of similar experiences that you or other Christians have had? Why might they be difficult to talk about?
In my earliest recollection Jacob Janzen was 60-something. He was not the oldest person I knew and rather undistinguished. He came walking tiredly up the sidewalk to the house in his rubber boots and a kepi—the sort of hat factory workers wore in the 60s, not quite a ball cap, but billed with a pill-box sort of shape.