From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Sensing scripture

From "Mika Larson" <>
Date Thu, 7 Aug 2003 14:13:04 -0400

August 7, 2003

Sensing scripture
'Reading scripture with your senses'

by Maggie Williams
Triennial Today 

[ENS] The Rev. Roger Ferlo thinks the idea of "reading scripture with
all our senses" gives an additional dimension to understanding those

Using the five senses - hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight - Ferlo
asked participants in his session during the Episcopal Church Women
Triennial that bear the same name as one of his books, Sensing God, to
think about how those senses add to the perception of anything
experienced. Then, he said, if those same senses are used to experience
scripture, the message comes alive.

Ferlo, rector of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City
and a deputy to General Convention from New York, said most people have
forgotten that, up until the 15th century, scripture was read aloud and
was experienced by the act of hearing. 

He used the cello music of Yo Yo Ma to demonstrate the idea that, when
music is played, it moves from a printed page, where is it seen, to the
sound of the instrument manipulated by the touch of the person playing
it. At each step, the sensory perception is changed, he said. And when a
performance is experienced, it changes the perception again to a new
type of experience.

"When you look at the idea that when you read aloud, in company, the
experience is much more involved than reading silently, it gains new
meaning," he said.

Of smell, Ferlo said the action of smelling something is often that "we
stop and think." The sense of smell then can be associated with moments
at the threshold, he said, where a decision is made to turn back or

When it comes to touch, Ferlo said there are many instances recounted in
the Bible where Jesus invites those around him to touch him. Those
touches heal and sometimes - as in the story of Thomas wanting to feel
the wounds of the crucified Christ - allow someone to see something they
might not otherwise believe. 

Ferlo said that, while some senses are stronger than others throughout
scripture, thinking of scripture in more sensory terms provides them
with a new strength.

"I think the stories become more immediate when you think in terms of
smell, taste, sight, sound and touch," he said.

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