This fall marks the beginning of the 10th straight year that I have run a Karl Barth Reading Group here in Caronport. Each week from September to April or May, a group of students, staff, and pastors get together once a week to discuss a small portion of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. On average, it’s taken us three years to complete a single volume. I’m convinced of the value of “slow reading” of Barth. You can only process the material from 5-10 pages at a time, and we’ve rarely (though occasionally!) found it difficult to get a discussion going from these few pages.
In 2005, we began with the famous Doctrine of Election (II.2), in 2008 proceeded to the Doctrine of Vocation (IV.3.2), and we just finished the first part of the Doctrine of Creation (III.1) this past spring. At that point, we decided together as a group to “begin again at the beginning” so this year we will be reading the first volume of the Church Dogmatics, the Doctrine of the Word of God (I.1).
Our format is simple: We open with a reading from Scripture (I usually work our way through a biblical book throughout the year). We then spend just a few minutes sharing prayer requests and we pray together. Then we launch into the discussion of the week’s assigned reading, usually about 6-10 pages. When we are done (about 75 minutes later), we close in prayer, go our separate ways and begin our day.
From the start, I’ve loved the Barth group. It is a bit of a respite from the busyness of the week. For me, it is a kind of a middle ground between work and rest. It isn’t quite work because of how enjoyable it is, and it isn’t quite rest because it takes a degree of dedication to arrive at a 7 am meeting in the dead of winter in Saskatchewan!
But I suppose the surprising thing is this: 10 years of reading Barth together hasn’t yet brought me to the point where I wanted to quit or do something new. Barth has a way of getting us thinking, getting us back into Scripture, and keeping us growing in our intellectual and spiritual lives.
Now here’s my question for the day: How does one properly celebrate 10 years of a Barth reading group? (I’ve dreamed of having a little reunion of all the past and present members of the group, though I suspect we are all a little too far flung to make that happen). Any suggestions?
P.S. If you are local and want to join the group, we begin September 11, 7:00 am, in Seminary S104! Bring a copy of CD I.1 and have the preface (xi to xvii) and pages 3 to the top of page 10 read.
P.S.S. You can still get a great deal on a complete set of the Church Dogmatics from Christian Book Distributors here.