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18 March 2011

Plenty of space in Open Heaven

Plenty of space in Open Heaven

by Wendy McTernan

Ness Wilson first heard about Biblefresh in September 2009 when she attended an Evangelical Alliance symposium. Sharing a car with Rob Cotton from Bible Society, she invited him to speak at a united church service in January 2011 to launch Biblefresh in her home town of Loughborough.

Ness is the leader of a church called Open Heaven, started 18 years ago, but she said: 'When I speak about the church of Loughborough, I mean the whole church, not just mine.'

She first communicated the vision for doing Biblefresh at a church leaders' breakfast and soon a team came together to draw up a calendar of events for the year. 'The Bible is so unifying,' she said.

In February they held a follow-up of some Bible Encounter workshops over a day and an evening. 'These were for people who felt they were "stuck," said Ness. 'Maybe traditional Bible reading notes hadn't worked for them, so we tried to think of new ways to connect, thinking of different personality types or those who were on different spiritual pathways.'

They used three different approaches:

  • Word-based, talking in twos, telling a story, feeding back or retelling it in your own words;
  • Ancient approaches using Lectio Divina, from Bible Society, a dynamic method of reading Scripture from AD 300, and an Ignatian contemplative approach, where you imagine yourself in a Bible story.
  • Experiential approaches used the senses to bring a story to life; and a series of film clips showing how a Bible story had been interpreted in film down the decades.

Although the group attending was relatively small, it was nevertheless felt to be a worthwhile start to something that could be used again or developed in the future.

In March they'll be hosting Saltmine Theatre Company, performing From Eden to Eternity.

  Hearing the Word

Alongside the joint church initiatives, Open Heaven is following the E100 Bible Reading Challenge - 50 key passages from the Old Testament and 50 from the New.

'There's a much higher chance of people achieving this than trying to read the whole Bible in a year, for example,' Ness said. 'Rather than giving a list of readings, we recorded people's voices reading a passage and then praying, which was then put on the church website as a podcast. We are getting lots of hits, partly as people want to hear who is reading!' 

To learn more about what Ness's church is doing visit the Open Heaven website.

Biblefresh is a movement of churches, agencies, colleges and festivals seeking to encourage and inspire churches across the UK to a greater confidence and appetite for the Word of God during the year 2011, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King Jame Bible.