Dwelling in the Word

by the Rev. Katherine Bush


Dwell is one of my favorite words. It sounds a little old-fashioned, or maybe like a word from a fairy tale, conjuring a hidden home in the woods. In the Bible, it’s repeated all the way through from dwelling in tents to sparrows dwelling near the altar to Christ dwelling in the world with us. When we dwell somewhere, we settle in, shifting around in our seats until we’re comfortable and looking around at the place to get a sense of things. 


“Dwelling in the Word” is the name of a practice we engage in at the mid-point of our new Sunday evening service. After some quiet minutes, we read the lessons of the day, repeating the Gospel passage twice. Then we ask a series of questions: what captures my attention, and then what do I wonder about, and then finally how am I (or how are we) being nudged by God?  These questions are not the provenance of the assigned preacher for the day, rather everyone who is present is invited to mull these questions over and to share a word or two if they want to. We walk through a slow conversation naming the words and ideas that snag us – either because we are enchanted or because we are challenged by them. Then we wonder aloud about things we don’t quite have a handle on, and even as we name the questions we know not all of them have ready answers, and that’s okay. Lastly, we imagine what a next step on the path of faith might look like based on the Scripture and on the wisdom of the discussion. These steps might be for us as individuals or for us as a community. 


Dwelling in the Word is an iteration of an old prayer practice called Lectio Divina or holy reading. The idea is that we trust our hearts and minds to draw out whatever the sacred stories might be offering us, small breadcrumbs that we follow together in conversation. It’s not about theological expertise or fluency with Greek and Hebrew; the practice is grounded in a deep trust in each of us that our hearts and imaginations are equipped to encounter God in these sacred texts. This practice is embedded in our evening worship as a reminder that we are all called to listen to the ancient stories and consider what in the world they mean to each of us today. 


After the conversation, we share communion. Throughout our time together, our worship is marked by quiet periods of silence; as Scott said the other night, silence does some of the work that music does in other liturgies. It’s a peaceful, simple forty-five-minute gathering with new words for old ideas. We offer this liturgy in the Orgill Room, a space at the heart of Calvary’s campus that you might never have been inside of, with a few dozen chairs, some candles, a simple altar, and lofty skylights that let in just the right amount of light in the evening.


You’re invited to come to dwell in a different space on Sundays at six o’clock – in a new-again-to-us sacred space, with some fresh prayers and words and a centering conversation that welcomes us all to consider how we dwell in the word and in the world.

15 thoughts on “Dwelling in the Word”

  1. Ted and I have really enjoyed this service. Everyone comes dressed casually and comfortably, like being invited to a friend’s home for conversation. Hearing the thoughts and perceptions of others to the readings gives one fresh insights and a feeling of community. And sharing the bread and wine in such an intimate space truly feels like we’ve just come away from the dining table refreshed and renewed. We’re thankful for this special worship experience.

  2. A P.S. to my original post: It’s freeing to know that you’re not under any obligation to share your thoughts. You can just listen and inwardly digest, as they say.

  3. Well stated. I tend to favor services like these. After last week’s service, I told Scott I imagined that might be how early Christian gatherings may have played out. Smaller groups, meditation, sharing, silence. In the 70’s, my mother used to gather with a small group for prayer and sharing. I recall them meeting in Overton Park when the weather permitted. She loved it and said it changed how she approached The Divine. Thanks for the post!

    1. Beau, I love it when something “new” really touches our histories- way back to the early Christians or to your mom and friends in the 1970s. And as an aside, Overton Park certainly is a dwelling place of the holy for me!

  4. We engage the n this practice every Tuesday at 2 pm at Trezevant, and it continues to bear fruit!!

  5. I loved iit last week when the wind washed over roof and rattled the windows. For me it was a metaphor. The words — both scripture and those spoken — amidst the silence washed over us … and at times I was rattled. Sunday nights are so intimate and beautiful.

  6. This service sound so inviting. 🙂 it reminds me of The Journey classes at Calvary back the day!!

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