Discovering Mark's Gospel: A Summer Study

Discovery, the Adult Education and Formation program at Trinity Church Wall Street, is taking a deep dive this summer— into the Gospel according to Mark.

Beginning last Sunday, June 6, and continuing each week until August 29, Discovery will devote thirteen online sessions to the shortest of the four gospels.

“This is going to be a conversation among equals with all of us grappling with a text that is so important for our faith,” said Susan Ward, a parishioner who is also a member of the Trinity Vestry.

The summer-long study will have the benefit of three sessions led by Dr. Peter Ajer, professor of New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Dr. Ajer began the series, which is divided into three sections, last Sunday with what is called a Bible Toolkit and participants considered the gospel in its Ancient Near Eastern context. Dr. Ajer returns twice more, on July 11 and August 8.

Trinity parishioners will take turns facilitating the other sessions with Susan Ward leading the discussion of chapter 1, verses 1 to 39.

“In looking over the passage that I'm going to be facilitating I was struck by how lightning-fast Mark moved along,” Ward noted. “The word 'immediately' appears numerous times in Mark, and I didn't remember that so much was packed into chapter 1.”

The Gospel according to Mark is read in detail every three years by churches, including Trinity, which follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The current Church year, which runs until the start of the season of Advent in late November, is a “year of Mark.”

Scholars generally believe that Mark is the oldest of the four gospel accounts. During Sunday’s opening session, Dr. Ajer shared with the group several significant themes, and divided the gospel into three sections: Jesus’ initial ministry, the parables of Jesus included in Mark, and Jesus in Jerusalem, including his arrest and crucifixion. Registration is still open for anybody interested in joining the class, which begins Sundays at 10am EDT.

Susan Ward described Dr. Ajer as “the authority, and his coming back periodically during the summer will keep us on track as we investigate the gospel.”

However, the purpose of the summer study is not to turn those who attend into Bible scholars, Ward said.

“We're going to talk together about what selected passages mean. This is going to be largely [about] how passages speak to us.”