By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 4, 2021
ATLANTA—In the midst of an unrelenting pandemic, with more than 440,000 killed by the coronavirus and economic uncertainty, it turns out a brief book telling of a Jewish girl’s courage—written more than 2,000 years ago—has a message for today’s perilous times.
That’s what Keri Allen believes.
A new Bible study podcast is being rolled out by The Quest Atlanta 1160 AM station.
During six episodes, Allen explores the Bible’s Book of Esther and teases out its relevance for today’s believers. The book tells of events surrounding Esther, a Jewish Queen of Persia, overcoming an order to annihilate Jews throughout the empire.
Allen uncovers the empowering themes from the ancient story. More than 500 people registered for the free “Be Who God Created!” program. As a podcast, people can start listening on their own time.
The station’s radio signal covers more than 3 million people around metro Atlanta, in addition to an unlimited audience with its web casting. The Quest Atlanta is a religious, non-commercial radio station. The Bible study program airs Wednesday mornings.
In addition, as a podcast, this programming reaches people who want to listen on their own time when walking the dog, washing dishes or sipping coffee.
Carol Tiarsmith, president of The Quest, said one mission of the station is to share the ministry work done in Atlanta parishes to a larger audience. Allen’s Bible study program draws a large audience so the station was confident listeners would appreciate it, she said.
Asking questions you’d ask
Allen and co-host Linda Scharnhorst have talked about working together for a few years, but nothing worked out. Scharnhorst is a novice podcaster who at the start of their collaboration had spent only a few hours in front of a microphone. Allen has shared her expertise and insights about the Bible for some 20 years.
Public health guidelines have shuttered faith-sharing programs outside of Mass for nearly a year. But the two women felt the forced separation fueled a desire for community, as long as it could be safe.
The shows were recorded in December at the station’s Roswell studio.
The questions, answers and laughs recreate the faith-sharing atmosphere of the small group discussions people love, Scharnhorst said.
“I try to ask questions I have, or more importantly, I could imagine our listeners wanting me to ask if they were sitting with us in the studio,” said Scharnhorst. Allen shares her knowledge of the Bible.
A highlight has been hearing from listeners. It has drawn a married couple participating in their first Bible study together and seasoned students of the Bible saying they heard something at exactly the moment they needed to hear it, she said.
Renewing faith with a Bible in your pocket
Pope Francis has emphasized for Catholics how celebrating and studying the Bible can renew their faith.
In his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit illis” issued Sept. 30, 2019, he established the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God. He has urged everyone to read the Bible and turn to it frequently. The pope said a pocket Bible would be handy to open and read during daily activities.
People who hear God’s word, the pope said at the 2020 Sunday of the Word of God, “are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near.”
In 2014, Allen, the former director of adult education and evangelization at the Cathedral of Christ the King, began a women’s Bible study, “Proclaim My Word.”
As part of her work, Allen said she emphasizes how the Bible applies to life and highlights biblical figures whose lives are at a crossroads, but they keep the faith.
Allen, who earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans, was in her 40s attending a Bible study with other Christian women. The experience inspired her to bring the same scholarship and introspection to a Catholic audience, particularly women. For nearly two decades, she organized and led Bible studies at the Peachtree Road cathedral.
The Bible can be understood and be a guide without having to use long words, she said.
“Just try to dial it down, where people can understand what the word of God is trying to say so they can apply it to their lives, so that they can recognize the truth when they hear it,” she said.