Finding Our Voice by Jeannie Kendall
The gift for ‘making connections’ is essential for effective preaching, teaching and pastoral care, and Jeannie Kendall has it in spades
Finding Our Voice. Unsung lives from the Bible resonating with stories from today
By Jeannie Kendall
Reviewed by Alec Gilmore
The gift for ‘making connections’ is essential for effective preaching, teaching and pastoral care and Jeannie Kendall, a Baptist minister, has it ‘in spades’, demonstrated in a book which is more important for its methodology than its content. Not because there is anything wrong with the content (there isn’t) but because the content (like sermons) lends itself more to impact than to critique in a context where ‘impact‘ depends more on the hearer (or reader) than on the creator.
Finding Our Voice is of that genre. Eleven chapters, each with three sections. First, an imaginative presentation of a Bible passage, in this case an unknown Bible character. Second, the biblical version in context. Third, a true, anonymous story on a similar theme from today, giving readers (or groups) the opportunity to discover the Bible in a new way, to find echoes of their own story and the confidence to own it and talk about it, and to discover and explore a world or experience different from their own. Thus we encounter life in Leaving Home, Losing a Child, Long-term Illness, Abuse, Death, Hope alongside Depression, Love and Forgiveness.
Inevitably some chapters click better than others, some connections are more immediately obvious and some may be a bit obscure, but to dismiss any because ‘this is not my voice’ (or ‘my experience’) is to miss the point. Of course not. It is their voice and Kendall’s contribution is not to propagate their voices but to introduce us to a method by which we may find our own. An alternative title might indeed have been ‘Finding Your Voice‘ but then that would have introduced a didactive element which Kendall skilfully avoids as she smartly sums up with a Reflection introducing us to the Ignatian notion of ‘our lives’ and ‘the lives of others’ as ‘God with skin on’.
Visiting our church on behalf of United Bible Societies in the 1950s, Edwin Robertson, introduced us to Depth Bible Study, essentially a lay non-professional approach for house groups, with a leader whose only ability was the skill to draw out others. An evening of 90 minutes was split into three equal periods. First, an exchange of ideas on a Bible passage; how members saw it, its impact on them and what puzzled them. Second (unrelated and with Bibles firmly shut) a fairly free chat over a current issue (personal, local, national or international). Third, (after five minutes of silence for reflection) 25 minutes to identify and discuss possible connections between the two previous sessions.
Over the years I discovered its riches, not least in sermon preparation. Suddenly to find something so similar in print was like the cherry on the cake, to be warmly commended, and to any who question its value my only response is that of Augustine: Take and Read.
Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister