The Congregational Church of New Canaan, Connecticut faced a problem familiar to thousands of other twenty-first century congregations: how do we teach the Bible so it becomes more central to our lives?
For years, the search for an answer took New Canaan into the wilderness. Leaders of the 1,750-member church organized marquee-name lecture series. They tested curriculum materials created by various denominations. Yet nothing quite delivered the staying power needed to connect laypeople to the life and drama of the ancient text. Something was missing.
In 2007, New Canaan church members discovered something old and invented something new. They discovered the power of small-group dynamics, a communal model as old as the apostolic age. They gathered laypeople willing to trust each other and talk together about life-and-faith issues. Not least, they found a way to present biblical expertise in a compelling, practical format. They called on Yale Divinity School for help.
The church arranged to tape a series of Bible conversations between YDS Dean Harold Attridge and YDS professor emeritus David Bartlett, capturing their give-and-take discussions, usually in 15-minute segments, on DVD. The church sponsored the cost and distributed the discs to the small study groups (up to a dozen people each), which committed to meeting regularly for eight weeks. The result was the Yale Bible Study Series, beginning with the Gospel of John and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. It is our hope that viewers will find the series informative, challenging, and inspiring.