At first, maybe this sounded like a strange choice for our book club. Was it just for women? What about all the men in the gospels? What was an ‘interactive bible meditation anyway’? So we began reading and shared our reactions to what we read.
The book is structured with groups in mind, but can equally well be read by individuals. Each chapter focuses on one female character from the gospels. The reader is given the relevant references to the Bible passages and invited to read these again, never mind how familiar you already are with the story.
Then there is the ‘Monologue’: the main character tells her own story as though she was recounting what she had done, said and thought at the time , and we are invited to enter into this story in our imagination and apply any lessons we might have learnt to our everyday lives.
Finally each chapter ends with a series of questions and suggestions for discussion.
This book opens up quite a different way to ponder the Scriptures and apply what we understand God to be saying in our lives.
The use of ‘imaginative contemplation’ is a tried and tested way to pray with biblical texts, of course, and for many it provides an opportunity (as St Ignatius of Loyola taught his early companions) to encounter God anew.
So who are some of these women who speak to us? Obviously there are the central characters of Mary and Elizabeth together with, for example, the Samaritan Women who met Jesus at the well.
There is the Widow who gave all she has, and Lazurus’s two sisters, Mary and Martha; and, of course, Mary Magdalene.
The gospels were obviously written by men, and during a very different society from today. Inevitably, sometimes the women’s voices have got lost or been hidden. This book redresses the balance a little by providing us with a new perspective.
Are there any less than positive aspects of this book? Some stories resonate more with one person that another, and often our group deliberately chose a character out of the chapter sequence.
A problem with each chapter being designed to ‘stand alone’ is that there is the irritating repetition of certain discussion points and/or instructions.
However, overall, the value of deepening our understanding of the Bible, and hearing God’s Word afresh, enables the reader to overcome such small glitches.
The book club enjoyed discussing it. Why not try it for yourselves?
Book Review by Hilary Finlay
Walking With Gospel Women: Interactive Bible Meditations by Fiona Stratta (2012) ISBN 9780 857460 010 3. Price £5.99. Available from Amazon.