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The Bible our Photo Album

Photo Album

The Bible is the Church’s Photo Album.

A family’s photo album collects precious memories of the family. The photos have been arranged in a particular way. The family gathers around the album to re-tell its stories. The album maintains the family’s sense of identity. They cannot go back to the time of those stories and make new photos. There is something definitive about the collection.

Certainly, if you find a photo album from some unknown family, yes – you might be able to reconstruct some of this family’s stories. But, let’s be honest, a lot of it will be guesswork. A lot of it will be wrong. Removed from the family continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the photo album, the album by itself loses its role of maintaining the identity of the family.

An individual who finds the album (out of the context of the family telling the stories as it gathers around the album) can misinterpret what a photo means, why it is there, and can overstress or understress its importance.

People who think that photographs show some sort of “objective” picture have never used a camera. Photographs are interpretive. They are taken from a perspective. They include and exclude. They filter and alter.

Then albums arrange photos. They can do so by theme (on the beach, in the snow), by people (with Aunt Flo), chronologically…

A photo album is like memory (like the family’s memory). Memory is not merely “what actually, objectively happened in the past.” Memory is integral to identity. Memory filters, sorts, confuses, gathers together, conflates, clusters around what is regarded as important…

The Bible is the Church’s Photo Album, integral to the identity of the Church. It is the Church’s memory. The Bible is not merely “what actually, objectively happened in the past.” It does not show some sort of “objective” picture. The stories are arranged. Stories are told from a perspective. They include and exclude. They filter and alter. The Bible sorts, confuses, gathers together, conflates, clusters around what is regarded as important… Remove the Bible from the community continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the Bible, and the Bible by itself loses its role of maintaining the identity of the church.

Removed from the church continuing to tell the stories as it gathers around the Bible, an individual who finds the Bible can misinterpret what a story or verse means, why it is there, and can overstress or understress its importance. The ever-increasing number of “Bible-alone” communities disagreeing with each other, bears witness that this is so.

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This post continues ideas in a conversation. The ideas preceded the conversation for both of us…

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After purchasing Rev Nick Connolly’s The Bible Through the Seasons, I encouraged him, three years ago, to put his resources online in a daily format. The Bible Through the Seasons, now having completed its first three-year cycle, was the result. Soon followed: The Bible Through the Seasons – A Three-Year Journey with the Bible for Children and Families. For those interested in a spiritual discipline of reading the whole Bible, please check out Nick’s approach which complements RCL very well.

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8 Responses to The Bible our Photo Album

  1. The memories we have in our internal photo album are usually subjective but powerful nevertheless. Regarding our families as with biblical interpretations we tend to remember what we like and disregard the rest. It is worth the effort to recall in our daily lives all we have learned from those family biblical events as well as our own personal photo albums. Pictures fade but the rememberances of life, love and laughter last eternally.

  2. Wonderful image: the Bible as our “Family Album.” I’m very grateful for recommending The Bible Through the Seasons as a doable way to go through the “Album” page by page!

  3. As so often, Bosco, you remind me of the great Vicar of Leeds, Walter Farquhar Hook. In a sermon on the BCP Visitation of the Sick, he says something very similar (if we may take his “Prayer Book” as a functional equivalent of your “church continuing to tell the stories”):

    “Be not followers of men; heed not what is said by Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, if they follow not the Prayer Book; study your Prayer Book; be the Church your guide, and so you will come to a right understanding of Scripture.”

  4. Quite a splendid paradigm, Bosco – The Bible as photo album. Especially when we remember that photos are always taken with a perspective in view.

    The question here might be: Who was the one operating the camera? Was it God, or a human being?

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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