Seminarian Voices: Making Meaning

By Westley Conn MDiv II

This summer, I had the pleasure of serving as Seminarian at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston. In addition to preaching and leading mid-week worship services, I took part in regular Bible studies. One particular topic was King’s Solomon’s dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8: 4–26). The text begins with a vivid description of the priests bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple and ends with Solomon’s prayer for the Temple. We spent time discussing the way the book of Kings functioned as a part of the Deuteronomistic History: namely that it is a retelling of Israel’s history in the aftermath of the Babylonian captivity that helped Israel make sense of destruction and great change. A congregant posited that Israel’s retelling of history was a way for Israel to make their history with God relevant to their experience in Babylon — a method of making meaning. This notion of making meaning out of our experiences with God resonated with me.

As Director of the Church School, it is my hope to encourage children to make meaning of their Christian faith through the various resources at hand, like tradition and Scripture. However, I think, most importantly in this process of understanding, is talking about our faith with each other. When we retell our individual histories of trial and triumph with faith, we make meaning and can draw on one another’s experience to better comprehend our own.

This year, the Church School is endeavoring to better engage meaning making and foster conversations about our faith. Last year, at the conclusion of Church School, many students from the 5th–6th grade class asked to help teach the PreK–K class. In response, the teachers, students, and I came up with a plan to make this terrific suggestion happen. We are in the experimental phase of implementing what we are calling “student helpers.” The student helper is responsible for reading the Bible lesson in advance and brainstorming ways to talk about the story and/or theme with the PreK–K students. We envisioned the student helper adding to and building upon the lesson, which could be in the form of discussion questions, a re-telling of the story, a song, or any other way the student helper is able to further the understanding of the biblical lesson or theme for a particular Sunday. Our student helper initiative provides our 5th–6th grade students with an opportunity to contribute to the Church School while engaging in a process of meaning making to help younger students learn stories and lessons that are foundational to Christian formation.

I invite you to join us in this process of making meaning of our experiences with God. I welcome you to continue retelling your faith story with us. I encourage you to share with someone the ways in which you experience God moving in your life, and I challenge you to tell when you struggled with God and doubted God’s presence. Consider letting the Memorial Church be a part of this process. Join us for Faith and Life Forum as we look at matters of faith and public life. Worship with us weekly at Morning Prayers before work or class. Have coffee and conversation on The Porch in the time following Sunday Services. Now, let us journey together in our meaning making.

Westley Conn is a second-year MDiv candidate at Boston University School of Theology, focusing on pastoral ministry, as he is pursing ordination in the United Church of Christ. 

About Seminarian Voices
Seminarian Voices is a platform for our seminarians and interns to express their experiences, views, and perspectives on their journey through Divinity school and beyond. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by the Memorial Church.