From beginning to end with Open the Book
The bible is full of stories of people who entered into ministry later in life. With more people now aged over 60 than under 18 in the UK, what role do older people have to play in relating to the younger generation? Irene Nickerson talks about her role as Open the Book Coordinator for Norfolk.
Prior to retiring from my role in a primary school as a Year 1 teacher, SENCO and RE Co-ordinator, I knew I could not envisage being without a project. That prompted me to explore and train to deliver Open the Book (OTB). For the past seven years I have provided initial training to others and support OTB volunteers across Norfolk.
One of the things that I became very aware of early on was that OTB was a form of mission. It’s a good way for me to share my faith with other people and OTB is a positive way of ensuring that children at least hear the story of the Bible.
The great thing is that it helps to build community links between churches and schools. Working with both young and old is invigorating. I have met adults at training days that have never told or read anyone a story before, but they come open to trying something different and we have a lot of fun trying to remember stories and appreciating different versions of storytelling. Individual teams from parishes or groups of churches then get the experience of preparing stories together regularly and once you start going into school the children quickly recognise you when you are out and about where you live!
The children love OTB and they sidle up to you to ask if they can be a part of the picture for the story. They bring their own creativity to the storytelling. It amazes me that they remember details from stories that have not been told for many months. It prompts their curiosity to ask questions: “Are all the stories connected?” “Are these stories before Jesus was born?”
Working with young people is such a privilege; it’s not about having all the answers. Sometimes we offer a sympathetic ear, advice or reassurance, but at the end of the day young and old are just people with more or less experience of the world and each with their unique perspective to share – we can all learn from each other.
I have observed changes in some people as they have taken on OTB and gained confidence. However old you are chronologically, you are rarely that old in your head! Some of our team were in their 80s when we first began and they felt innovative and useful. Ultimately, when all – young or old – are focussed on one shared interest or goal, age is irrelevant. Everyone has something they can offer, however small.
Open the Book is led by adults from local churches and school children are involved in the storytelling. The adults have all they need in scripted materials for an introduction, quiet time, prayer and the story. If you enjoy being part of a team, want to ensure that the children in your parish hear the story of the Bible in an exciting and interactive way, find out more by contacting Irene Nickerson at email@example.com
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