Introduction to Colossians

I have uploaded to the Spoken Word page notes for two classes I did at church to introduce Colossians.  The class is an adult Sunday school class composed of professionals in the fields of business, education, health care, technology and the sciences.  I’d guess the average age to be mid to late 40’s, and most all have kids in middle school or high school (some in college and some in elem. school). I have, after prayer and annoucements, about 40 minutes…so as you will see…I had to move quickly to cover what’s in the file.

I presuppose the folks in class are intelligent, inquisitive, eager students.  I presuppose they are eager to hear a word from God, not just sit through another Sunday School “lesson” manufactured by Mac Ice.  I presuppose they are willing to ground their understanding of Colossians first of all in the meaning intended by its author to its original recipients.  I assume they want and need to hear the theological message of the letter.  I also assume they are willing to move from exegesis to spiritual formation and service.  I assume that exegesis ought to result in spiritual transformation and that good teaching attends to the head, the heart, and the hands.  You will only see some of that move in these introductory notes, but it will factor into the discussion of the text.  These assumptions undergird my teaching, and I addressed them as we proceeded through the beginning of the first session.  I had not thought in such explicit terms (as in talking about it in front of a class) about my teaching, so the exercise was very helpful to me as I sat down to process and articulate some things about my teaching ministry.  I think it is only fair for me to do this since we are new at church and this is my first extended teaching stint.  We’ll see if they ask me to teach again after this series concludes in April. 🙂

Sunday comes again this week, so by and by, I hope to add more.

Teaching Colossians

adultclassesYesterday I began a nine-week stint teaching Colossians in one of our adult classes at church.  We are moving through the Pauline letters plus Hebrews over the next year or so under the broad heading of ‘Love letters from God.’  Danny Camp, our Education Minister, has put together a notebook for every adult in the congregation.  It is part study-guide, part-journal, part note-book.  Each letter has its own tab with basic introductory matters with blank pages for notes, journaling, reflections, etc.  It is an attempt to move us from passive listeners to actively engaging the text. 

As I can, I’ll try to post here some of my teaching notes and reflections of teaching in general.  I used power point yesterday, so I’m not sure how helpful those presentations will be since I rely on PP primarily for visuals and short phrases.  I don’t use PP to throw a manuscript on the screen (and then read it to the class while they struggle to listen and look at the same time).  And I’m not entirely satisfied with using it period…anyhow, I’ll post some stuff in case in it might be helpful.

I finished Genesis 1-11 two weeks ago with our 11-12th graders.  These two classes are the first I’ve taught in nearly a year.  It feels good to teach again; it felt really good to have had nearly a year off (after a dozen years of teaching every week).  Danny is makes sure our teachers have ample opportunity to rest and prepare.  Thanks, Danny.

Anyone have suggestions for helpful resources or strategies for teaching Colossians?

C. E. W. Dorris Timeline

This is a provisional timeline which obviously has a lot of gaps.  It is only a bare skeleton which will hopefully grow some meat as time goes on.  I offer it here 1) to solicit input and corrections and 2) as a window into my research.  I’ve been in information-gathering mode for about three months.  I know far more now than I did when I began, but as I said above, there is much I don’t know and much, much more to read before I dare venture anything about bro. Dorris’ theology.  But for now, I’m at the point where I can begin to reconstruct a basic sequence of events.  A timeline functions for me like a skeleton.  It won’t be very long before I’ll have most all of these dates memorized; so as new information surfaces I’ll have hooks on which to hang it.  

Since it is a work in progress, I will not publish this on my Written Word page until later in the spring.


April 7, 1871               born near Portland, Tennessee

1889                            baptized by J. W. Grant

1889/1890                   began preaching near Portland, Tennessee; preaching at Brown’s School House

1889/1890                   first person whom he baptized was his mother

Ca. 1892-1896            attended Nashville Bible School

May 4, 1898                married Mary Louise Merritt of Franklin, Tennessee

May 4, 1898                began plans to begins his first paper, The Bible Student

January 2, 1899           moved to Franklin, Tennessee

January 5, 1899           first issue of The Bible Student appears (discontinued October 1902)

May 19, 1899              Carrie Louise Dorris born in Franklin, Tennessee

August 13, 1900         Carrie Louise Dorris died in Franklin, Tennessee

October 1902              ceased publication of The Bible Student to devote more energy to evangelistic preaching and teaching

April 21, 1904             Mary Louise Merritt Dorris died at 5605 Morrow Road, West Nashville

1906-1908                   West Nashville

April 4, 1908               married Luisa (or Lula?) Kerr of Maury County, Tennessee

1908                            published A Discussion Between Two Brothers

1910                            published An Interesting Correspondence

1910-1912                   5605 Morrow Road, West Nashville, Tenn.

1913                            R.5 Clarksville, Tenn. (publication info. uncertain for this edition of LoP)

1914                            5605 Morrow Road, West Nashville, Tenn.

February 1915             first issue of The Home Missionary appeared from Clarksville, Tennessee (discontinued December 1916)

1915                            R.5 Clarksville, Tenn. (publication info. uncertain)

December 1916           final issue of The Home Missionary appeared from Nashville, Tennessee (continued as Tidings of Joy)

January 1917               first issue of Tidings of Joy appeared from Nashville, Tennessee bearing Volume 3, no 1.

1917                            became an official at Life and Casualty Insurance Company

1916-1920                   5605 Morrow Road, West Nashville, Tenn. (publication info. uncertain)

November 1919          facilities of the Southern Practical Institute opened “for its friends”

January 1920               Tidings of Joy published by Southern Practical Institue, Nashville, with    C. E. W. Dorris as editor of the paper and Superintendent of the school

January 5, 1920           first day of classes at Southern Practical Institute with “35 students from five states and the continent of Africa, ages ranging from 7 to 47, of which twenty-five are boarding students…”

February 16, 1920       Southern Practical Institute closed due to epidemic influenza (as reported in Tidings of Joy, March 1920).

April 1920                   Tidings of Joy returns to C. E. W. Dorris as sole editor and publisher.  The school is closed on account of the “flu” with no definite plans to reopen it.

June 1920                    final issue of Tidings of Joy appeared from Nashville, Tennessee.    

1921-1936                   Life and Casualty Building, Nashville, Tenn. (publication info. uncertain)

October 5, 1925          first services, Central Church of Christ, Nashville.

1934                            retired from Life and Casualty Insurance Company

1937                            1101 Caldwell Lane, Nashville

1938                            Commentary on Mark published by Gospel Advocate Company

1939                            edits David Lipscomb’s Commentary on John, published by Gospel Advocate Company

November 20, 1962    Luisa Kerr Dorris died in Nashville

October 3, 1964          died in Nashville, Tennessee, age 93; funeral services conducted at Central Church of Christ, Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas C. Whitfield and S. P. Pittman



Research Underway: C. E. W. Dorris

If my posting here is erratic over the next few months I will blame it on my pre-occupation with my current research project.  I’ve taken on what becomes with each passing day and every new discovery a more complex and daunting—even fearsome– task: I’m trying to briefly (only a few dozen pages) chronicle the life and ministry of Charles Elias Webb Dorris.  He is evangelist, editor, writer, publisher, debater, commentator, schoolman and churchman general of churches of Christ 1890-1964.  Dear friend, there is a book to be written on each of these aspects of his life.  And 1890-1964 is just his preaching career; he died in his early 90’s.  His life spanned from the incipient division among Stone-Campbell churches after the Civial War to the bitter division within Churches of Christ Post-WW2.  And it seems he was keeping up with–and involved with– nearly everyone and everything in those intervening decades.  Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, but not by much! 🙂

Dorris has been on my radar screen for a few years, since we first began attending Central Church in 1995 (he was one of the founding elders at Central in 1925).  Seems like everywhere my Nashville research has taken me, he’s already there.  He is at once ubiquitous and elusive.  He is everywhere I look and yet though I may find him…there are more questions than answers.  Fortunately, I love a good challenge and I love research.  Dorris is challenging and it is requiring lots of research.  Though he’s been in the back of mind for a good while now, my presentation at the 2009 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference is in April.  So for the last few months (since last year’s conference) I kicked it up a notch.

Over the course of the winter and spring I will share with you, blog friends, some of my research.  If you have some knowledge of him, i’d love to hear from you: email me at:        ice (at) discipleshistory (dot) org.

Catching Up and Walking On

This weekend the Ice family will be making strides against breast cancer in fabulous downtown Nashville.  Laura’s folks are coming in for the weekend and my mother will also be walking, so its a whole-family affair.  Laura has assembled another “Jean Team” to walk in memory of her beloved colleague from Una Church’s Mothers Day Out program.  Our group of about 15 will join several thousand for what looks to be a nice sunny stroll from the Titans stadium, through downtown and back across the river.  Today its cold and rainy, but tomorrow looks better.  Let’s hope what is true for the weather holds true for the fight against breast cancer.


Our evenings have been occupied with house cleaning, laundry and the ever-present homework.  My study is coming along nicely and should be clutter free by late tonight.  Darby helped me decorate it for Halloween. I’ll try to post pictures of her handiwork tonight.


Needless to say, between household chores and prep for my teaching on Sundays, Uncle Dave has been neglected.  But we’ll see what next week holds. 


Yesterday I was blessed to visit with the staff at World Christian Broadcasting in Franklin.  I spoke at their staff devotional and toured their facility.  They are fine people who do a good work worthy of your support.  We have supported them financially and urge you to do the same.  I’ll upload my comments to the Spoken Word page shortly.


I have notes for last week’s class on Acts 27, but they are not yet typed. I think the approach I settled on is a fairly good way to approach narrative for spiritual transformation.  Though a travel narrative like Acts 27 poses a challenge for lectio divina I’m satisfied with the direction I took.   I’m continuing with Acts 28 Sunday and brining it (the book, the series and one of Acts’ larger theological points) to a close.


I preach from manuscripts but teach from handwritten notes.  Always.  For me, I’ve found the discipline of crafting a sermon (or a devotional or some other kind of speech) works best when the process results in a full manuscript.  I simply preach better (in my estimation at least) from a manuscript.  But for class settings, the time and attention devoted to writing notes by hand rewards me with the ability to teach from memory with only an occasional reference to the notes.  I can’t explain why I benefit in different ways from each approach, but somehow I do.  Also, the dynamic of presenting a sermon lends itself to manscripts (I”m not a hand-waver or a stage-walker).  But the dynamic of a class-setting (again, for me) is much improved when I avoid the podium like the plague.

new content added

Rick Chambless asked me to fill-in for him a week or so ago in the college class at church.  On Sunday mornings the entire congregation is working through Earl Lavender’s volume on Acts in the Meditative Commentary series published by Leafwood Publishers.  My assigned text was Luke 18.18-19.7.  I read Earl’s preface (which seems to be substantially the same in each volume of the series, with specific application for the book(s) under consideration).  Earl and Gary Holloway are writing the commentaries and to introduce both the series and each contribution to it they have put together a fine introductory statement about how we study scripture in several ways, and how each method is useful for something.  This series is a meditative commentary and has as its goal the transformation of God’s people by the text of God’s word.  It calls for a different method of reading.  A means to achieve this goal is the time-tested practice of lectio divina, or holy reading.   

So, I read the preface several times, and God in his good providence gave me John Mark Hicks’s posts from early in July on lectio.  I combined the two into a brief introduction for the class and then worked through the text.  This was my first time to lead such an exercise, and I’m pleased how it went.  One of the students in the class had done a lectio exercise, but her experience was a bit more complex than what I did (and from her tone of voice I’m not entirely sure she liked it).  Since it was my first time to do this (and I was confirmed in my suspicion that it was the first time for the students in the class), I did a very simple form of lectio  using a template from Rhonda Lowry via John Mark Hicks.  I’m very pleased that this series is published, and from what I hear being used quite widely.  I think average folk in Churches of Christ are hungry for Bible study that moves beyond rehearsal of narrative facts, or take-a-verse-and-jump-to-who-knows-where-with-it, or worse, the read-a-verse-and-share-your-thoughts method.   

I have uploaded my teaching notes to the Spoken Word page.  If all went well it should be in pdf and should open for you with no hitches (you will at least need an Adobe Reader to view it).

I also uploaded to the Spoken Word page a sermon I preached at Smyrna at the July 20, 2008 PM service from Hebrews 4.14-16.

Comments, as well as resources, helpful hints and experiences about teaching by lectio, are welcome.

Finally, I’ve added a links page to which I will be populating with all my links from Occasional Epistles blog.  I’ve also got to clean the lists up a bit, weed out bad links, and add new stuff.

Having found a comfortable place to sit and type, I’ll work on them some today.  My painkillers make me a bit loopy, so forgive any typos or run-ons, or sheer garbage (which could be most any post on the blog!).

Grace and peace.

resting/gearing up

good evening friends,

a brief update:

–baby Sara is coming, but we don’t know when.  Perhaps we will know more after Laura’s appt tomorrow.  Last week the advice was: call me when it happens, or see you next week (whichever comes first).  We will go in for an inducement on the 14th if she hasn’t arrived by then. 

–I’m dealing with a kidney infection and come kind of (awful) lower back pain.  God help you if you have ever had a) a kidney infection or kidney stones, or b) chronic lower back pain.  Furthermore, God help you if you have had to deal with that without health insurance.  The Castle has fabulous comprehensive health insurance for our family.  If we didn’t have it we’d probably be in significant debt for the girls’ hospital costs and regular well-visits not to mention Laura’s regular dr.’s visits.  My back issues would probably have gone untreated (finally went to the dr. in January, its back now as we speak).  I have four prescriptions besides the pair of shots I got at the office today. For them we paid all of $13.00.  Laura called first thing this morning and I got squeezed in to see my dr. before 11.  By 3 I was actually sleeping.  What do people do without health insurance? And why are we as a nation not doing something for those who cannot afford it?  for children who cannot get basic medical attention?  I don’t understand why this can’t be made to work.  Why? 

–World Convention is now in the history books.  The youth programming I helped pull together actually came together, thanks in large measure to the fine folks we had speak and serve (Ajai Lall, Jeff Walling and Virzola Law keynoted; Gary Holloway, Cool People Care, Invisible Children and CrossRoads Mission for service and workshops and the Andra Moran Band for morning worship).  I really enjoyed working with Randy Kuss (Disciples youth pastor in Indianapolis), David Empson and Jim Chamberlin (Christian Churches youth ministers in Indy as well).  All three of these guys have hearts for ministry are top-quality guys.  I suspect we’ll wind up keeping in touch.  I hope so. 

–DCHS dedicated the Oscar Haynes Exhibit Hall on Tuesday 7.29, after the close of the National Convocation in Memphis and the day before the opening of the World Convention in Nashville on 7.30.  It was my first museum to coordinate and I’m rather proud of it.  I’ve got plans for an on-line version to put on our website.  We’l see if, and how, it might work out.  Please drop by to see it.

–DCHS sponsored the Ketcherside Scholar program during the World Convention.  Speaking were three graduate students who have conducted/are conducting research in Stone-Campbell history and theology: Chris Cotten (Lipscomb MDiv student on East Nashville non-institutional churches of Christ), Megan Severns (Vandy MDiv student on the Disciples Week of Compassion ministry), and Raymond Patton (PhD student at Trinity in Chicago on B. U. Watkins, 19th c. evangelist, author and social justice advocate).  I was so disappointed I could not be there in person (I just couldn’t figure out a way to be at two places at once).  But I heard that there were over 70! people there for the lectures!!  I think these three are fine scholars and I’m proud to have assisted in their research.  A hearty congrats to each of them.  I know we’ll be keeping in touch in the years, Lord willing, to come.

–I found Henri Nouwen.  He was in a box of receipts, papers, and odds and ends that I grouped together so none of them would be tossed when I moved my study downstairs.  I want to do a short series reflecting on his book, The Wounded Healer.  That finished, I want to do a series reflecting on D. Lipscomb’s Civil Government

–here in a moment I’m downloading some kind of freeware that was reccommended to me that should convert documents to pdf’s.  Assuming it goes well, I’ll post some stuff I did at Smyrna Church over the last two weeks.  One is a sermon I preached in the PM service of 7.20 and the other is a lectio divina exercise I walked the college class through on 7.27.

All for now, I’ve sat up long enough.  Time for another happy pill.

grace and peace.

Statement of Greetings

Statement of Greetings

McGarvey Ice

Director of Public Services

“The great festival–God’s great festival; the best of all the seven. What a delight is the Lord’s day! Crowded with the grand deeds of Christ–his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven–it awakens in the soul all the resplendent recollections of the kingdom of God. What themes does it afford for meditation and eloquence!”*

For 175 years this place has been a place of worship on the Lord’s Day. It has been a place safe for souls to seek the Kingdom of God. It has been a place sacred for meditation. It has been a place which has honored the eloquent declaration of the gospel.

It is my pleasure and privilege to bring greetings this afternoon on behalf of Disciples of Christ Historical Society. We remember the fine heritage of faith, of grace and truth in this place and we salute those who even now carry forward the gospel from this place for this community.

12 April 2008

*Excerpted from the diary of Walter Scott, Dec. 3, 1848 in William Baxter, Life of Elder Walter Scott. Cincinnati: Bosworth, Chase and Hall, 1874, page 405.


I brought this brief greeting to the Carthage Christian Church upon the unveiling of an Ohio Historical Society marker commemorating the establishment and history of the congregation.

Serving the Academy and the Church

Over the weekend I traveled to Cincinnati. I went for two reasons: one, I presented a paper on the Churches of Christ in Nashville at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference at Cincinnati Christian University; and two, I brought greetings on behalf of DCHS at the dedication of an Ohio Historical Society Marker at Carthage Christian Church.

My paper traced the development of the Churches of Christ from 1866-1906, from reconstruction to the famed 1906 Census which reported separate listings for Disciples and Churches of Christ. A native of Nashville, this is an area of personal interest to me. At the same time, not very much has been written in this area, so I want to contribute to the existing scholarship. The atmosphere was congenial. I met lots of great folks.

The marker commemorates the ministry of Walter Scott, who established the congregation in Carthage in 1832. Through on-going ministries of preaching, teaching, compassion and service they have been present to the community in the same location for 176 years. Their historian told me that in 176 years they haven’t missed a communion service. On display was the original minutes book from 1832, a photograph of the original building, and other items which preserve and tell the congregation’ story. The atmosphere was celebratory. I met lots of great folks.

I share my weekend experiences because it underscores the ministry of the Society: we are dedicated to the ministry of preserving our history. Flowing naturally from this mission are our contributions to the on-going scholarship in the history and theology of the movement as well as our commitment to the on-going history and ministry of our congregations.