This past Monday, September 9, 2019, The King’s College launched year three of the Public Reading of Scripture (PRS), a weekly spiritual life initiative which began in 2017. Each Monday while class is in session, the King’s community comes together in the City Room to eat lunch and listen to Scripture read by their classmates, staff members, and faculty.
The PRS initiative was introduced by Carter Fletcher three years ago when he served as the director of spiritual life for the King’s Student Council. Wanting “Scripture to be at the forefront” during his time on the Council, Fletcher proposed a weekly corporate Scripture reading modeled after the Public Reading of Scripture that takes place at the Grace and Mercy Foundation, where former chairman Andy Mills is co-chairman. Since 2017, PRS has become a distinctive weekly event that characterizes spiritual life at King’s. For many students, PRS offers structure to their weekly schedule and provides a consistent opportunity to share in community with the rest of the student body.
On Monday, this year’s student director of spiritual life, Isaac Coston (PPE ’20), introduced PRS. Coston began the event by stating that “Scripture has been the foundation of my life.” Coston prayed for the event and then asked Dr. Benjamin White, assistant professor of biblical studies, to share a few remarks about why we read Scripture publicly.
White explained that there are two things to keep in mind for PRS: first, the public reading of Scripture is not new, and second, the public reading of Scripture is beautiful. He then described the biblical and historical background for communal Scripture reading, mentioning Moses and the Ten Commandments, King Josiah’s reintroduction of Scripture to Israel, and Justin Martyr’s defense of Christian gatherings. White also described the beauty of the public reading of Scripture and how it brings community together around a shared love for God. White remarked that “During the week, we may take out our swords to discuss theology and the nature of God, but during the Public Reading of Scripture, we lay down our swords to unite around the Bible.”
PRS then began as students Isuraoluwa Adedokun (PPE ’20) and Tyler Bowens (Business ’22) read Deuteronomy 30 and the book of Philemon. Megan Dishman, director of events and production at King’s, read Psalm 1 and then Nick Swedick, assistant dean of students, read Luke 14.
Dishman said, “Reading Scripture aloud publicly reminds me of the opportunity and responsibility I have to redirect my daily walk and work to the Gospel. In this week’s reading, I loved the liturgy’s focus on getting in the Word day and night (Psalm 1:2) and how it connected to growth: ‘a tree planted by streams of water.’”
At each Public Reading of Scripture, four or five passages from Scripture are read aloud by a mix of students, staff, and faculty of The King’s College. Between each passage, the readers wait in silence for around thirty seconds, allowing those in attendance to reflect on the passage which was just read. Many students appreciate this time for reflection, including Morgan Detzner (Business ’22), a transfer student in her first year at King’s. Detzner said, “The moments of silence after each reading allowed us to think about what we just heard. I really appreciated that time to sit in silence and reflect.”
Coston ended PRS by asking those present to join him in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Over 125 students, staff, and faculty joined in praying together in the City Room on Monday, a testament to PRS’s ability to unify the King’s community.
Joey Willis, Christian formation coordinator at King’s, explained that the hope is for PRS to become more engaging this year. Instead of the director of spiritual life asking individuals directly, any student or staff and faculty member can sign up to be a reader. Verse references appear on screen so students can place what they are hearing, and the College has applied for a grant to buy Bibles so attendees can follow along with the Scriptures being read. Willis’s hope is that, this year, PRS will “provide a quiet, contemplative place for students to reflect on Scripture.”
With over 100 students in attendance at the first PRS event of the year, Willis’s hope seems well on its way to being fulfilled. Kaleigh Webb, a transfer sophomore, said that PRS “encourages you to not have just an individual walk with God through allowing everyone to come together for the same thing. It encouraged me in knowing that there is a community in Christ here at King’s.”
Support for Public Reading of Scripture is generously provided through The Grace and Mercy Foundation. The next reading will occur on Monday, September 16.