Chris Rosser introduces us to the power of 7 Steps Bible Sharing Groups on Zoom and how this model could also benefit your own parish community.
By Chris Rosser
“Every week when we meet for our Bible sharing group, I am discovering something new from Scripture” said Nick as we reflected on the 7 Steps Bible Sharing meeting we had just completed.
Last November, a Parish Mission was preached at the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill London. One of the highlights of the week was the daily morning Bible sharing. Even at the anti-social time of 7 o’clock in the morning, the group grew from 12 to 30 people! A tangible and lasting gift to our parish from that mission is the “7 Step Personal Bible Sharing Method” which Fr. Paul Roche CM of the mission team introduced to us during those early morning meetings.
Today the experience is quite different as we peer at each other through the now familiar “Zoom” windows, however the power of the Holy Spirit breaking through our locked doors is no less real! For me, the 7 Steps Bible Sharing method of praying with Scripture has brought Lectio Divina to life. The process is remarkably simple, non-technical and non-threatening, especially for those who are not entirely comfortable with group prayer meetings.
In this method we read and reflect on a Bible passage, usually taken from one of the Gospels. We share words or phrases that have struck us and then in a period of silent prayer try to hear God speaking through these chosen words. After this time of silence, we listen to each other as we share what we have heard God speak to us. We then conclude with a short discussion to discern a thought, prayer or “word of life” which can sustain us during the week along with a suggestion of a possible appropriate action arising from the Bible passage. The full description and small group guide for the 7 Steps model can be downloaded here:
When the meeting ends with a short period of shared prayer, an evaluation then takes place. This is also characterised by a sequence of 7 steps. It is brief but important as it allows individuals to express any concerns or preferences they may have. Thus, the group is re-assured that no one feels marginalised and that the process is meeting the needs of all.
I find this method of praying with Scripture particularly effective. Firstly, because of its simplicity. There is no trained leader, only a facilitator is required whose task is to choose the Bible passage, then read and guide the group through each step of the process. The facilitator does not embellish or deviate from the steps. The facilitator can, and should be rotated, within the members of the group, although we have not yet attempted this!
Secondly, the method is effective because it is non-threatening. There is no requirement or implied expectation for everyone to speak. There are no discussions or explanations of the passage thereby eliminating the risk of individual biblical experts taking over. The emphasis is on prayerful reflection and personal sharing. The meetings are rigorously kept to one hour in length and when held in face to face settings, refreshments and socialising are discouraged. This may sound harsh, but it liberates hosts from escalating costs, rising expectations from “the Jones’s” and the possibility of people out staying their welcome. It also helps to maintain the focus on the Word of God.
In this time of the Coronavirus, the Zoom meetings are throwing up unexpected benefits and challenges. Time spent in travelling, over packed church hall schedules and demands on baby sitting are eliminated, or at least, much reduced. However, we have had to learn new skills in the online environment. Switching off microphones becomes important to eliminate random household noises not normally noticeable. We have also found that during the time of silent prayer it is beneficial to turn off videos as well as microphones so as not to be distracted by close-up images of each other. Fortunately Zoom replaces the video image with the name of the participant which is enough to re-assure us that we are still together. When the pandemic is over, I imagine we may have an interesting discussion about the pro and cons of continuing with on-line meetings.
“That is why we need His word: So that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life”. In these words Pope Francis urged us to engage with the Bible as he was celebrating Mass on Sunday January 6th 2020 the first celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God. The 7 Step method of praying with the Bible does indeed help us to hear “that one word”. But there is something deeper. As we meet in our groups, whether online or face to face, we are re-creating in a modern-day setting, the small communities which characterised the early church. Surely such communities will provide the Holy Spirit a seed bed for renewal as “two or three gather” in the name of Jesus?