Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“). Production starts tomorrow. I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.
Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday. We start studying Book Two next week. The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections. There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.
Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration. In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:
- “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
- “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
- “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
- “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
- “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá aka Red Bird (1900)
- “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
- “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
- O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
- “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
- The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)
The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:
- “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
- “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
- “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
- “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)
One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.
Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use. I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections. Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.
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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.