One Bible – many encounters

Published on: 1 January 2018

We each have our preferred ways of encountering God through the Bible. Some are avid readers; others prefer an audio experience; some find art or drama helpful; others prefer active approaches.

Most of the readers of The Magazine seek out opportunities that best suit them, but there is a wider community who can be encouraged to encounter God’s word. Barbara Bryant asked Tim Yau, pioneer missioner out the outskirts of Norwich, Sally Shaw from Filby near Great Yarmouth, and the Bishop of Norwich how they are each helping others to engage with the Bible in differing ways.

Fresh from the Word – a Bible study guide

Tim Yau

I got involved with Fresh from the Word (FFTW) in 2013 when I was approached by Nathan Eddy, who was then a URC minister in Lowestoft, as well as the editor of International Bible Reading Association’s newest publication.

FFTW is unique in that it purposefully engages with contributors from a wide variety of backgrounds; it tries to get a balance of input from the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, using clergy and laity, academics and practitioners, social activists, evangelists, pioneers, poets and monastics from different social, ethnic and cultural contexts. With this dynamic, it creates a great breadth of opinions and theological stances.

FFTW encourages the writers to draw on their experiences from their particular situations, forming a tone of writing aimed at making the Bible accessible to people new to the Christian faith, as well as those seeking a creative and challenging conversation with scripture. FFTW also benefits 32 other countries by being translated into local languages, which enables another 94,000 people to read it across the globe.

In FFTW 2018 I write under the heading of ‘Going Viral: communication in the Bible’. It focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit and reflects on how Pentecost changed everything. This time I touch on diverse experiences around mountain climbing, world-changing events, and indie rock and roll, to name a few, but I feel that it really has come together and I hope and pray readers will find it helpful with their walk with Christ in the mission of God.

Open the Book opens the Word in schools

Sally Shaw

“So, let’s Open the Book and hear what the Bible says about…”

Familiar words to those of us who go into our Primary Schools to give children an opportunity to hear the major stories of the Bible through Open the Book and to see them acted out creatively using props and costumes and often involving the children themselves taking part.

‘The Book’ is actually The Lion Storyteller Bible, retold by Bob Hartman. The stories for the first year give an overview of the Bible from creation to the ascension and subsequent material has stories based on a particular theme; for example, All about Paul, or David, the Shepherd King.

This year, the Bible Society, who run the Open the Book project, has introduced some new material based on Christian Values; 16 of them, including justice, hope, endurance and love, to name just a few.

In a recent example, our team told ‘The Story of Ten Young Girls’ (the value being wisdom). Ten bridesmaids, five of them ‘wise’, with extra oil for their lamps, and five of them ‘foolish’, who missed the party when they went off to buy more oil just as the bridegroom eventually arrived!

The girls who acted in that story really engaged; getting ready for the wedding, brushing their hair, putting on their beads and fine clothes and each holding up their little candlelit lamps (battery ones, of course!). Those five who had to go and buy extra oil really felt the sense of disappointment when they got back and were not allowed in to join the other wedding guests, and the five ‘wise’ girls who had gone inside could clearly be heard through the door enjoying themselves. That story would never have had the same impact if it had it simply been read to those children.

Teachers often tell us that the children really look forward to Open the Book. The children are so willing when asked if they would like to help and always seem to enjoy dressing up and acting the stories with us. We are thankful that Open the Book gives us the opportunity and that schools allow us access to form a bond through telling stories from the Bible. Even outside of school, children see us and you hear a little whisper: “That’s the lady from Open the Book”!

The Bishop’s Art Prize

Graham James

Norwich has two universities. The University of East Anglia is the best known but in the centre of the city there is the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). Its student numbers topped 2,000 for the first time in this academic year.

I sponsor an art prize each year for the final year undergraduates and postgraduates. I take a biblical theme and the Head of Fine Art at NUA, Carl Rowe, leads sessions for the students to explore the brief I provide. For many students, it’s their first introduction to the Church as a patron of the arts. More than that, it offers an opportunity to explore biblical texts and themes which have wider application in life. The number and quality of the entries have grown each year. An exhibition of the shortlisted entries is held in the Cathedral Hostry.

In 2016 the theme was Unexpected Blessings, drawing on the Sermon on the Mount. A bronze entitled Epistle won the prize. It was created from some handwritten letters, given permanence and weight by turning them into sculpture. Such durability was a reminder of the blessing of a handwritten letter as well as linking with the many letters found in the New Testament. A handwritten letter is now an unexpected blessing.

This year’s theme was Glimpses of Glory, drawing on the gospel account of the Transfiguration of Christ. The winner was a charcoal drawing inspired by a congregation in Norwich Cathedral listening to an organ recital exploring the glimpses of glory in faces which shone as Christ’s did in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Next year the theme is Light in the Darkness, drawing on the creation narrative in Genesis.

To win or be highly commended in the Bishop’s Art Prize has become valuable for the curriculum vitae of students. For some though it’s an encounter with words and themes of scripture for the first time. The Bishop’s Art Prize has itself been an unexpected blessing, perhaps even a glimpse of glory.

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Articles in this issue...

Guardians of Ancora

The Revd Mark Capron reviews a children's online Bible game.


Parish Bibles

Parish Bibles can tell us something of the history of the church to which they belong through clues such as annotations and their general appearance.


Which Bible?

KJV? NIV? NLT? The Message? To the question, 'which is the best Bible?', the answer is, 'best for what?' Paul Overend explores the different translations of the Bible.


Walking through the Bible

Andy Jones runs Raise Kids Work and, among other activities, delivers Walk through the Bible Primary School lessons.


The Lectionary – not just for Sundays!

You might be used to looking on a list to see what the reading are for this Sunday if you are reading a lesson or perhaps preparing the prayers, and probably know that the church of England provides a list of readings for each Sunday (the Sunday lectionary). But Charles Read wonders if you know that it also provides readings for each day?


Bible Sunday – an opportunity to engage

Each year, churches the length and breadth of the country celebrate to Bible on a Sunday in late October - Richard Hooker describes how they used this opportunity at St Edmund's parish church in Taverham.


Praying with the Bible

Keith James shares a practical guide to two ways of praying – Imaginative Contemplation and Lectio Divina.


Bringing the Bible to life

The Rt Revd Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford enthuses on the 'Open the Book' teams that bring Bible stories to life for children across the Diocese.


The Bible in a digital age

Kevin Baldwin discusses how Life exhibition is using a different method of old and new media to share the Bible with thousands of children in a digital age.


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