01 November 2011
How churches renewed their love of the Bible
Churches around the country have been taking part in Biblefresh projects inspired by the national campaign with great enthusiasm this year, Claire Musters finds out the highlights from around the country.
Biblefresh has been taken up by churches right across the denominations. The Methodist church created its own handwritten Bible, undertook marathon Bible readings and festivals and supported the Big Read 2011 projects. Ichthus churches took part in a reading around Mark and each congregation chose another Biblefresh initiative to be involved in. Baptist, URC, Anglican and non-denominational churches, as well as groups of churches together, have also got behind Biblefresh.
Essential 100 partnered with Biblefresh this year and was particularly popular. Its carefully selected 100 readings (50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament) ensure a good grounding in the overall story of the Bible. It can be used individually, but is even more powerful when a whole church gets involved. As the Ichthus church in Southcroft testifies: "It has been amazing to see the discipleship that's been happening as people are taking hold of the Word themselves and we are hearing testimonies of people reading something in their Bible time and then it directly impacting the way they behave/react."
Newfrontiers' Sutton Family Church also took up the E100 challenge. "The Pastors preached through the passages on a Sunday then everyone worked through them in more detail during small group time during midweek small groups." One church member said: "It was good to dig deeper into areas of the Bible that I hadn't really read properly," while another remarked: "It was great to go through the E100 challenge as a church as it meant everyone was spurring each other on to read more of the Bible."
The biggest impact of E100 was how it got people actively into the Word again and invigorated them to try approaching the Bible in a different way. Charmaine, who has previously struggled to read her Bible, decided to try The Message translation. Now she is constantly sharing testimonies at house group of how she has got new revelation and how this has impacted the way she is treating those around her. Most significantly it seems to have made her prayer life totally come alive.
Written for small groups, this online resource was launched by the Bible Society. Each session involves looking at a Bible passage in a reflective and engaged way, and leads to the group deciding on what spiritual practice to explore next. The idea is to connect the Word of God to daily life, and to work out what discipleship looks like in our own specific contexts. Jo, who has been a part of two very different Lyfe groups, said of her experience: "My first one was with two other mothers of preschool children. Our meetings were chaotic to say the least, but we still felt that we were able to connect with God and each other and found it encouraged us to think creatively about how we could nurture our faith in this phase of our lives. I have also been a part of a Lyfe group with three women who have never read the Bible before. It has been amazing to watch them encounter God through His Word, and the non-directive approach of the material has suited them perfectly, allowing them to respond and explore what they have read without feeling they are coming up with the wrong answers to set questions."
Outside the box
There have been some very untraditional approaches to connecting with the Bible too. For example, the Churches Together in Sidmouth held a Foods of the Bible exhibition, which included examples of Passover food provided by the local butcher. Teddington Baptist Church ran a photo competition to find the best shots that illustrated different Bible verses. Local businesses sponsored prizes and the public voted for the winners. Richard Littledale, pastor, commented: "One of the constant roles of the preacher is to bridge the gap between Bible and world - helping people to see God in their world and their world in the Bible. To an extent this exhibition has done my job for me."
SGM Lifewords ran the Twelve initiative throughout 2011, which challenged people to think about how they would tell the story of the Bible in only 12 words, and encouraged them to respond creatively through art, storytelling and interactive workshops.
A staggering 3,000 shoeboxes filled with 3D images of Bible events were displayed in Peterborough Cathedral. The brainchild of Diocesan director of education, Dr Stephen Partridge, the boxes illustrated every book of the Bible. Church schools, parishes, organisations and individuals of all ages in the Peterborough Diocese contributed to the display. In one week more than 800 children with their teachers from schools across the diocese visited the Cathedral to view the display and to attend a series of workshops on the Bible.
At venues across the country, people have been writing a pair of verses to help create the People's Bible. The whole British public has connected with this project which, using digital pens, has created both a paper and online copy. This has been a great way to personalise the Bible, especially for those to whom the Bible didn't mean very much.
The King James Bible Trust has hosted a wealth of events, including exhibitions and readings from the Bible, as well as a Composition Award that looked for new choral compositions incorporating the KJV. Their most ambitious project, YouTube Bible, brought together people from around the world to form a complete reading of the King James Bible on the video-sharing site.
Members of the public have been holding events too. In Gloucestershire, a group of local Christians held a Bible Party. It included speakers, choirs, exhibitions, a biblically-themed cake competition, children's activities and donkey rides. The organisers said: "It was hard work … but we are glad to have done something to celebrate the word of God, which has become such a treasure in our lives."
The KJB Trust will host a Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey on 16 November to acknowledge the place of the King James Bible in our culture and its continuing significance. One of the winning pieces from the Composition Awards will be played.
A spokesman for the Trust said: "We have been delighted by the impact of our work and the work of Biblefresh, which aims to make the Bible more accessible and the history and importance of it clearer."
This year certainly has been an exuberant celebration of God's Word. As Krish Kandiah, the Alliance's director: churches in mission and Biblefresh chair, said: "Not only have we seen unprecedented coverage on television and radio, celebrating the impact the KJV has had on Western cultures, we have also seen an unprecedented coming together of churches, festivals, theological colleges and mission agencies to help Christians across the UK to trust and treasure the Bible. Long may our appetite for God's Word continue to equip the Church for every good work."