The 500th anniversary of Anabaptism in 2025 gives the church a unique opportunity to celebrate and dream. This week on ~ing Podcast, host Ben Wideman is joined by Mollee Moua to talk with Lisa Krieg, Hugh Laurence, and Danny Armounfelder – three people who helped to lead Bible study groups as part of the brand new Anabaptist Community Bible. We’ll learn more about how their groups were formed, some of the things they learned along the way, and what it takes to participate in this significant project. This is part four of a miniseries where we’ll meet more of the people involved with this incredible project.
To learn more about Anabaptism at 500 or how to add your voice to the first-ever Anabaptist Community Bible, visit Anabaptismat500.com
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~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit Publisher that creates thoughtful, Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at www.mennomedia.org/ing-podcast.
Mollee Moua, Danny Armounfelder, Lisa Krieg, Hugh Laurence, Ben Wideman
Ben Wideman 00:00
It’s season three of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine. What does it mean to authentically follow Jesus?
Hugh Laurence 00:08
I think people really dug into the Old Testament passage and tried to think, what is the relevance of this for us now?
Danny Armounfelder 00:19
Sometimes very similar responses among us, but then also sometimes very, very different…
Lisa Krieg 00:25
Seems to fall really well into the tradition of group Bible study. That was the beginning of Anabaptist groups.
Ben Wideman 00:35
Join us as we talk with people of faith who are creatively thinking, growing and being… people who are reimagining and exploring what it means to enrich faith in a complex world. Our conversation begins now. Join us as we journey together. Hello again, friends. Welcome back to ~ing Podcast. I’m excited today to continue our journey with the Anabaptism at 500 project. I’m joined by three folks who were a part of the Bible study groups that are contributing to our Anabaptist Community Bible. I’m joined today by Danny, Hugh, and Lisa, and they will introduce themselves in just a few minutes. I’m also joined by Mollee Moua, who has been our co-host during this ~ing Podcast miniseries. It’s really good to be with this group and to learn more about what it’s like to be on the front line of creating this Anabaptist Community Bible. Danny, Lisa and Hugh, thanks for being here with us. I’m wondering if you would introduce yourselves for those who don’t know you.
Danny Armounfelder 01:38
I’m Danny Armounfelder, I live in South Bend, Indiana. And I am active in multiple congregations. The first is Kern Road Mennonite Church here in South Bend. And second is Southside Fellowship that meets at AMBS in Elkhart. And, and then I’m also active in the local Episcopal cathedral – Cathedral of St. James. And I had the pleasure of being a part of the Bible study group at Kern Road Mennonite Church.
Lisa Krieg 02:13
I’m Lisa Krieg, from Lititz, Pennsylvania, belong to the Lititz Church of the Brethren. And we have a small group that is engaged in this project, which is very interesting.
Hugh Laurence 02:25
And I’m Hugh Laurence, we live in the east end of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada, I attend Rouge Valley Mennonite Church in southeast Markham.
Ben Wideman 02:34
And just full disclosure… I grew up in in that part of Southern Ontario. So Hugh and I, although we haven’t really spoken in about 20 years, we have some, some deep rootedness in the same area. Well, thank you to the three of you for being here.
Mollee Moua 02:49
And I would also be interested to hear a little bit more about your congregation or your Bible study group that participated. And then just if you could share a little bit about why you decided to do a Bible study and participate in the Anabaptist Community Bible project,
Danny Armounfelder 03:06
We had a pre existent fellowship group of young adults at Kern Road Church. Anywhere around 10, I would say maybe, per Sunday. More than that total, but about 10 per Sunday. And we saw in the Anabaptist World, the story about the Anabaptist, about the project. And John Roth, who was a professor who I had at Goshen College, had history tours with him and loved the class. So we decided we wanted to participate. And so I mentioned it to the congregation. And a couple of times other folks have joined us too, which was really nice. And that, that was that was, that we did the project and we’re actually still discussing the Bible together. Now we’re going through the Gospel according to Matthew, just because we really liked discussing scripture together.
Lisa Krieg 04:12
My congregation is mainly older people. We have a few young people, but mostly we’re older. And I started this group because I was kind of nudged by somebody else who was interested. I’d read about this and wanted to be part of it. And so I ended up being the one who got more people and, and started leading the group, but we have six people. It’s not a previously organized Bible study group or anything. It was just, we’re just gathering for this purpose. And it’s been very good way to learn to know some others in the congregation. In that I didn’t know before, but also to see different views on the same scriptures, even though we’re all Anabaptist, or Brethren, and, and so that’s part of the interesting thing about it. We were a little surprised about that texts that we got assigned. So I think we started with the hardest one first. And but now that I look at the one we’re going to do next, I’m not sure. But anyway, it’s very interesting. And I like that it’s a Bible study of people, because it seems to fall really well into the tradition of group Bible study. That was the beginning of the Church of the Brethren and, you know, other Anabaptist groups.
Hugh Laurence 05:59
Our group was a pre existing Bible study group. And our pastor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Do you think the folks would be interested in this project?” So I brought it up, and they they said, “Sure, let’s give it a try.” There were about 10 of us on a regular basis, a few extra come and go. But mostly, it’s a core group of that size. And, like, Lisa, we were surprised somewhat by the passages we got ending up with the first part of numbers, which consists primarily of numbers. And we were sort of puzzled at what are we going to say? Well, it turned out we had no problem. Working through these texts, I had a lot of participation from the members of the group. And when we finished the first set, folks said, I wonder if we could do another one. So sure enough, I got in touch with Mollee. And she said, Oh, yeah, we’ll send you another one. And so we’re now beginning to work on our second one with good enthusiasm.
Ben Wideman 07:13
I love the reflections that you all have provided that not only are you learning something about scripture passage, but learning that there’s some diversity even within the folks who call congregations their home. I remember talking to the folks who put together the Voices Together hymnal and they were surprised to discover that heart songs are different for different people, even in the same congregation, or even in the same area. We’re all drawn in different ways to this tradition that we follow. And I think you’re illuminating something in the experience that you’ve had so far, I’d love to hear more about the surprises that have happened along the way, as you’ve… as you’ve started this endeavor, what’s been unexpected as part of this journey?
Danny Armounfelder 08:05
I think that the combination of how the same passage could elicit both very, sometimes very similar responses among us, but then also sometimes very, very different. It was just very cool. I thought how how the same passages could get such different responses. And also, like you were saying, how so one of our texts involved lots of lists. And then just how much you can actually get from a list if you read into it and look at commentaries sometimes too. And think about, well, what is this list of… what is the context of this list? It actually be very fascinating to to discuss.
Lisa Krieg 08:58
Us too – the surprises are just hearing each other’s… what versus stood out from a passage, to individuals, you know, some some that didn’t really say much to me meant a lot more to someone else, because of their own life experience or, you know, history, the Scripture becomes more alive because of the way that it has touched each, each of us in different ways. And the questions that we live with. Yeah.
Hugh Laurence 09:40
I guess I was surprised at the different approaches to the passage. The two passages from the Old Testament – one of Psalms, and this passage from Numbers, were approached somewhat differently than the New Testament passage. I think people really dug into the Old Testament passage and tried to think, what is the relevance of this for us now and read it in a very open way. The New Testament passage, which was about the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, tended to fall back a little bit into, “Oh, we’ve already learned this, I already know this, there’s nothing more in it.”
Ben Wideman 10:29
Hugh Laurence 10:30
And we’d get the received Sunday School interpretations. And it’s hard to shake that from familiar passages. But the willingness of people to acts to explore and let the Bible change them is very much there. It’s just we need to be shaken a little bit out of those familiar understandings.
Mollee Moua 10:59
Yeah, I think, letting ourselves be be shaken or I think. Yeah, I think that’s just really interesting, and really refreshing that even for new texts that we never heard of, or even text that we’ve always heard, like, there’s always something new and refreshing that we can gain from each other. So that’s always really, really great, really interesting to hear. I think most of you have either completed I know you, you’ve already done one. And maybe it sounds like Lisa, you’re you’re in the midst of one. But as Bible study group leaders, what are some things that you’ve learned as you’ve tried to facilitate a Bible study conversation? I know, there are still right about 200 groups. And so there’s still a lot of groups still yet to register and to start their Bible study. So maybe what are some some tips or things that you’ve kind of learned that you might offer to others as they started their Bible study group?
Hugh Laurence 12:17
Well, I found it a a wonderful opportunity. A lot of Bible study involves (at least for us) involves people reading and bringing their reading. This was different. This was an opportunity for people to really think together about the Bible passage, and come to some common understandings of it. And it wasn’t that we all thought the same thing. By no means. But we are all able in looking at the Bible passage, to put down a fairly concise response to that passage that seemed to gather up the key understandings that we had. And I found that really a wonderful process. And I think the people in the group founded a wonderful process, that ability to bring something together to the passage and, and come up with a result that was very satisfying.
Lisa Krieg 13:29
The format of the Bible study for this project starts with a an introductory session where you’re not focused on a text but you’re focused, you’re asked to reflect on your experience with the Bible and you know, Bible stories and that was very helpful to begin with, because I intentionally I knew everybody in the group. But I intentionally invited a few who I really did not know well at all. And so it was very interesting to hear people’s stories about their relationship with the Bible and when with God and and how that how that has played in their lives. And, and then I also find the five questions that you provided to be very helpful in kind of helping us to focus on the passage and, and it’s very helpful for me as a leader, I’m also playing the role of the scribe and in the group, so it’s very helpful to have those responses written and as well as what we discuss in the group but also to have the written out responses to those questions is very helpful when, when I’m typing up the notes. Those things were very helpful to me.
Mollee Moua 15:11
So you had your, like the participants, they had written out their responses as well.
Lisa Krieg 15:17
Yes. Okay. I didn’t, I didn’t know if they would. I thought some of them might not. But they all do. So that’s really helpful to this. And it’s very helpful to me.
Danny Armounfelder 15:31
Yeah, I would echo the “five question framework” to be very useful. We, we liked it so much that when we decided we wanted to do a more thorough study of one book, we’re still using those same questions to guide our discussion. It was just a very useful framework. Something else we did that I found useful was I did a lot of the organizational stuff, and administrative stuff, and… but we switch discussion leaders each week, which works quite well, for us too.
Ben Wideman 16:15
Thank you for those responses. It’s, it’s so enlightening, and I think it will be for listeners who are maybe on the fence or trying to figure out why they might be involved in this to hear some of that feedback. I remember, just a couple of weeks ago, I think, podcasts talking with Amy Gingerich, the Executive Director for MennoMedia. And she reflected that a number of her friends have said, you know, “I don’t really know what to make of the Bible these days. I don’t read it very much anymore. It kind of frightens me, or it’s something that I’m I struggle with.” And to have people raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’m going to take on this… this challenge, this difficult work,” I think is, is commendable and needed in a time where we do have some, some fatigue about the way that the Bible has been misused or abused or, or the ways it’s overwhelmed us. Given that context, that those challenges that you face, I’m curious, where have you seen hope in this process? What has excited you about these conversations, as you think about the future of the church?
Lisa Krieg 17:24
I think the very early Anabaptist in that milieu is a lot like what we’re going through right now, I think, in some ways, and Scripture is being, as you said, misused, distorted, to, to support, ideological positions or political positions or, and to get back to the Christocentric view of the Bible, in the life of a person is very important. I think this Bible project is very important to give an Anabaptist view of things. And so for for us, I think it’s really exciting that people, ordinary people can gather around the word and have these discussions. And this project sounded daunting to me, when when I first looked at it, I thought, “Oh, Mollee!” you know? But you give us small passages. And that’s that’s kind of that’s very interesting. And to think about all these other groups that are out there discussing all the other passages, what will result is kind of exciting. I’m, I’m really anticipating this final project.
Ben Wideman 19:01
I like that, that, you know, the voices of ordinary people, as you said, are valued, right. It’s not, we’re not just saying biblical scholars come and tell us how to interpret this, but how do you how do our people interpret this?
Lisa Krieg 19:16
There’s so many study Bibles already out there.
Ben Wideman 19:19
Lisa Krieg 19:21
But, you know, a lot of them are from certain theological positions and scholars and or celebrated, our celebrity teachers are. So this is, this is unique. I think will be good.
Hugh Laurence 19:39
For me, this goes back a long way, Ben. We originally committed ourselves – my wife and I – to the Mennonite Church as adults. We both came from different traditions. And one of the reasons that we did that was because this was a group of people who were seriously trying to understand God’s calling for them. And trying to understand that, partly through reading scripture, but also partly through working together at it. Yeah. And that’s always been for both of us a key core, to the faith. And, and the way church develops. And this was a wonderful example of that, that it wasn’t just one person leading a Bible study. It wasn’t somebody delivering the scholarship, or theological positions of other people. It was a group of people working together to understand for themselves and for the group, what God was saying. I just found that tremendously hopeful that we’re still doing that. Yes, the Bible is a bit daunting. It should be, it should be a challenge for us. It’s not a comfortable book. It’s not a book of pat easy answers. It’s a book of challenges that say, think more, puzzle this out, live it differently. And, and I thought our group really rose to that challenge. And that, that just was a tremendously positive experience for us.
Danny Armounfelder 21:49
Yeah, my group had a lot of people who, myself included who have struggled with scripture, and it was interesting, there’s a person in our group, who academically studies religious trauma. And well, that was really fantastic to have her there. I think the Bible is a daunting collection. And it’s just nice to be able to say it’s okay to wrestle with it. It’s okay to disagree with it. That can be holy to like, they’re the the authors, the various authors who wrote the Bible didn’t disagree with each other didn’t agree with each other all the time. They wrestled with each other, they wrestled with God. And there’s truth in that wrestling. And so we can be a part of that, too.
Ben Wideman 22:48
Mollee, you mentioned, there’s still room if people want to join one of these groups, or put a group together. How do they get involved if they are interested in raising their hand to take on this courageous act?
Mollee Moua 23:04
Yeah, so if you have a faith community that is interested in participating in the Anabaptist Community Bible project. So similarly to Danny, or Lisa, and Hugh, if you have a current Sunday school group, or maybe if you want to get a new group together, you know, once you have your group, go to www.anabaptismat500.com. Or you could just Google anabaptism 500 and our website will come up, and you will register your study group. And then you’ll get an email from me with your Bible passages. And so we’ve divided up the Bible into 500 sections. So each group receives a New Testament texts in Old Testament texts, as well as a psalm or proverbs texts. And so we say, you know, you’ll get three passages, we’re suggesting that you meet for four times. So four sessions. The first session is an introduction. And then the following sessions are on the passages. So your old, your new and then your Psalms or proverbs session. And then we have suggested five prompts. So just kind of five questions to help you generate discussion. And so yeah, three passages, four sections, five prompts. And then as we’ve already mentioned, make sure you you also have a good note taker or scribe, or you can have people like Lisa suggested write their notes in advance to so yeah, so check out anabaptism fa printer.com. and register your group, and the last date to register. Your group is April 1 2023. And then the last day to submit passages or your notes from the Bible studies, is June 1 2023.
Ben Wideman 24:50
Danny, Hugh, and Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories with our audience. Thank you for participating in this significant project, for being a part of something that really does require some thoughtfulness and some courage, we really appreciate it. And friends thank you for listening to this miniseries highlighting this Anabaptism at 500 project. Mollee and I will be back. We’ll have more from this project in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for that. Thanks. As always we’d like to thank our guests and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review in your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected] or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus and Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards. And produced by me, Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at MennoMedia.org.