Seeing Beyond the Canon

By Kate Mulligan

For use with Lesson Nine of the 2016-2017 PW/Horizons Bible study, Who is Jesus? What a Difference a Lens Makes, by Judy Yates Siker

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28 “…she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me’” (Matt. 15:25)

I first came to church and Sunday school as a teenager. Growing up, I had attended the occasional Easter or Christmas service at random churches, but a scout friend invited me to her church’s youth group in high school, and after a little while I began to attend her church.

Most of the other youth had been coming to that church for their entire lives, so they were well used to the Sunday school routines. They knew where the classroom was, who was teaching which week, how long we stayed in worship, where to bring an offering, how to receive communion. I was unsure of everything, as a guest of the church. I did not want to be known as a guest, so I rarely asked about the routine.

One day, the teacher called out for us to open our Bibles and turn to a passage in 1 John. I stumbled through my Bible, desperately trying to find the passage without asking someone else. Quickly, the rest of the group had found their page and I was still rifling through. One of my friends said, “It’s page 191!” I quickly turned to that page and found myself lost in an Old Testament passage. Someone laughed and said, “No, the other page 191. The New Testament is in the back.” Embarrassed, I cried out, “I just don’t understand why these books aren’t in alphabetical order!”

That was more than 30 years ago, yet I still have days when I feel like a stranger in the church. I have served the church in different capacities over those decades, participated in countless worship services, and I can now easily find most scripture passages without the alphabetical index. But there are still days when I feel awkward, outside, different.

But on those days, those awkward, strange days, I take comfort in knowing there are passages that tell the story of the Caananite woman and so many other outsiders who are welcomed in. I take comfort in knowing that on those days I find new meanings in scripture.

On those awkward, strange days, what holds my faith is the cry of an outsider woman who said, “Lord, help me!” And through her faith and persistence, her cry was answered. And I remember that although none of the people in that Sunday school class shared my confusion about the Bible, the church and liturgy, they cared for me anyway. The youth and the people of that church loved me through some of the hardest days of my life, despite the fact that I was other and outside. My prayers, too, were answered.

Questions for reflection

1.What times or ways have you felt “outside” the church or a “stranger” to church traditions? Consider both practices and knowledge and differences between your understanding of the theology and the church’s teachings.

  1. How does it feel to be separate or different? Consider how you felt in the moment and following.
  2. What insights do you gain from your own experience of being a stranger, either within the church or in another context?
  3. In what ways is Jesus a stranger to us?

Katie Mulligan is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. She works with youth and families in and around Trenton, New Jersey. She is a regular blogger at


Moderator’s Musings, May 2017 First Press

Well, we’re about to wrap up another eventful year in our PW Bible study circles. This month Dorcas, Rachel, Miriam and Susanna are finishing the Horizons Bible study considering many of the lenses through which people  experience Jesus; and Lydia is concluding their study of the book The Good and Beautiful God. Watch this space for information about summer activities for Presbyterian Women, as well as what our circles will be studying next fall. But before all that, even, the circles will have their May meetings, which are always listed in the Sunday   worship bulletins. That could be a good time for you to visit a circle (or two) to get acquainted. And before even THAT, check out the flyer on this page, inviting you to our gala year-end Festive Brunch (the day after Cinco de Mayo). We will be installing new officers for the coming two years, and enjoying fellowship before some of us head our separate ways to cooler climes for the summer.

So, see you Saturday the 6th, or at one or our circles later in the month.

Together in His Service,

Sandy Weil, Moderator

p.s. Watch this space next month for information about this year’s Honorary Life Membership recipients, and if you have a copy of the March/April 2017 Horizons Magazine, look on page 27 for last year’s recipients from our church. (Hint: Their names are Pat Barnard and Ruth Blue)



Presbyterian Women  Circle Meetings

Dorcas Circle—3rd Tuesday of the month at 9:30 am.  Activity Center, John Knox Village

Lydia Circle—2nd Tuesday of the month at 6:00 pm.  Dinner at various locations

Miriam Circle—3rd Wednesday at 10:00 am at the church

Rachel Circle—3rd Tuesday of the month at 11:30 am.  Bag lunch at the church.

Susanna Circle—3rd Monday at 6:00 pm at various locations