The Covid Crisis has given me a deeper appreciation of my health and awareness of my shocking privilege among other things, but its greatest gift so far has been to connect me more with sisters.
Gospels bookclub with my sisters
In early March before any of us were issued a “Stay at Home” order, three of my four sisters and I went to a family funeral and shared a very small airbnb over a weekend. We got into some deep conversations about spirit and faith and the importance of the Gospels. Although we were all raised Unitarian, my two eldest sisters have studied the Bible with vigor, one as a thoroughly involved evangelical christian, the other as a very active Episcopalian. We other three have never before read the Gospels, let alone studied them. We agreed it would be fun and informative to read them together; the Lock Down orders and a new understanding of how zoom works allowed this to happen very quickly. We’ve been meeting almost daily (daily!) for about an hour since mid-March.
It’s slow going. It’s amazing how much there is to discuss! I had no idea, for instance, that the Lord’s Prayer comes from the Sermon on the Mount (which is not labeled as such, really) and that it’s only in one of the Gospels! Well, you can imagine how blown away I was by Matthew (whom we started with). It’s been fascinating to discover where so many of the famous stories and expressions come from, and a little embarrassing that I didn’t know this before. Luckily, two of my other sisters are in a similar boat so I don’t feel too much like an idiot.
I’ve been so surprised to find out that Jesus isn’t always (ever?) portrayed as the sweet, loving person I’ve always assumed he was. I had no idea Mother Mary is barely mentioned in the gospels, and Mary Magdalene not much more. A huge amount of my prior understanding of the gospels came from Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. I grew up singing both.
In case you’re curious, I’m reading with the free Bible app, bible.com. It’s an astonishing resource. You get to choose and move between editions. I mainly use the NET, whatever that stands for, because the notes in that version can help sometimes. I also frequently look at the Messenger for a more contemporary rewriting of the verses. My sisters often bring in other resources: the Jewish interpretation (can’t remember what it’s called), for example. Because we go so slowly–often just chapter by chapter–our conversations are (sometimes) deeper than, say, those of the FAB Fems podcast. Because three of us are such novices, we ask questions about verses that my more knowledgable sisters admit they’ve skimmed over.
But this experience brings us so much more than a deeper knowledge of the Bible. We move into discussions about our personal faiths and family history. We are being brave and sharing–questions and answers and ponderings (and sometimes songs!)–that we might otherwise have kept private from each other. We each bring a very different perspective to the discussion. And my mother, 89, sits in. She doesn’t often participate, but seeing her face daily while she’s in lockdown has been a gift to all of us (and vice versa). Because I am about 2000 miles from my nearest sister and 3000 from the furthest, this experience has kept us all grounded in family connection.
Although we may well morph into less frequent gatherings, I hope we are all addicted to exploring spirit together. I’m not sure, but I think we’ll be reading the Koran next.