Inspired By A Beyonce Song, Kansas City Woman Starts Bible Study Group

May 25, 2016

Arionne Yvette Williams leads an iSlay Bible study group.
Credit Courtesy of Arionne Yvette Williams

 When Arionne Yvette Williams first heard “Formation,” the lead single of Beyoncé’s album, Lemonade, one of the lyrics inspired her to start a Bible study group for women.

“I just love the song; it just resonated with me as soon as I heard it,” Williams told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

“Just that phrase, ‘I slay’… this idea of saying, ‘I am amazing at what I do, at who I am’ — it’s awesome and everybody ought to take notice of it,” she said.

Williams, who has a Master of Divinity and works part-time in youth ministry, started the iSlay Bible Study Series: Secrets of the Savvy, Successful Women of the Bible.

The group, which meets at the Plaza Library, explores the lives of women in the Bible, like Queen Esther and Queen Vashti, and draws inspiration from how they empowered themselves. They also invite a female entrepreneur each session to give a brief talk about her business. 

After the song came out, Williams posted a question on her Facebook page: “Can we use (“I slay”) theologically?” She said that she got hundreds of responses.

“Everybody was jumping in, yes, no,” she said. “So I decided, well, let’s examine the women of the Bible and see how they might have used that term, had it been available to them.”

The women they study, Williams said, had to overcome a sexist patriarchal structure. Her group looks at what sort of lessons they would have shared with women living today.

According to Williams, there are about 330 women in the group. About 25 meet in person at the library, and the rest meet online (the series is broadcast live on Facebook and on Periscope).

Because of the size of the group, she hasn’t really gotten many personal stories from other members of the group.

“Well, we haven’t had people get terribly intimate — keep in mind, there’s 300 people,” she said. “But I have had women say things like, ‘I love the story of Vashti’ and being able to grab on to the idea of saying no. The women of today redeem her; we find the power of saying no.”

Williams thinks it’s important to have a women’s Bible study group to study women because women are still dealing with sexism today.

There’s a more 2016 reason as well.

“There’s too much junk TV now where women are portrayed as being catty,” she said.

“I don’t know any women who are like that,” she added. “I want to counteract the message that women are catty, illogical, emotional … and put forth that they’re powerful and strong.”

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.