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A letter from the Vicar, October – November 2013

A letter from the Vicar               

Update on Linda Dean: she is now back at home and continuing to convalesce. Please don’t call or telephone just yet, but do keep on sending messages of support to 52 Lanchester Road N6 4TA and remembering Linda and her family in your prayers.

The busy season has begun – we have celebrated Harvest Festival (and had one of our best ever barn dances) and the next few weeks bring the healing eucharist on St Luke’s Day, the commemoration of All Saints and All Souls, and Remembrance Sunday. The adult confirmation group is underway and the children’s First Communion class will begin shortly. The Friends of St Mary’s have been working non-stop to raise awareness of, and funding for, the outreach work of the church.

I want to highlight another special Sunday that is coming up. The 27th October, the Last Sunday after Trinity, is kept as Bible Sunday. On that day we will introduce a project called The Bible Challenge that the PCC enthusiastically supports. The idea is to read (together) the whole Bible in a year.  Anyone, young or old, who wants to sign up is invited to do so.

We’ll start the challenge on the day after Advent Sunday (Monday, 2nd December). Each weekday, Monday to Saturday, we will be reading, in our own time, three chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament and a psalm. On Sundays we can just listen to the readings in church (or catch up if we have fallen behind with the week’s readings!).

The idea has come from the American Episcopal Church via Kimberly and Ross Gilmour.  See this link for the origin of the project: The website for the Bible Challenge says that the difference between hearing the Bible in church and reading it for ourselves is “like the difference between riding a car as a passenger and not paying close attention to the route being taken versus driving the car and learning the roads that get you to your destination”.

Now the challenge is not specifically to study the Bible, just to read it day by day. But links and resources will be provided for anyone who wants to go a bit more deeply into the text. And the Advent groups this year will look at the question “Why and how do we read the Bible?”

You are invited to read the Bible in any translation you choose. Here are the first two verses in a variety of versions:

Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Authorized King James Version)

When God began to form the universe, the world was void and vacant, darkness lay over the abyss; but the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (The Bible: A New Translation, by James Moffatt, 1922)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water. (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a vast waste, darkness covered the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water. (The Revised English Bible, 1989)

First this: God created the Heavens and the Earth – all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, by Eugene H. Peterson, 2002)

You could even choose to read the Bible in another language to hear it afresh:

Au commencement, Dieu créa les cieux and la terre. La terre était informe et vide; il y avait des ténèbres à la surface de l’abîme, et l’esprit de Dieu se mouvait au-dessus des eaux. (La Sainte Bible, par Louis Segond, 1968)

The big attraction of doing the Bible Challenge as a parish is that we will encourage one another to engage with the scriptures that have shaped our faith, our tradition and our world. There will be plenty of difficulties along the way, of course, and that is why we will be giving each other lots of support. The Gilmours have offered to host monthly gatherings to share our experiences of wrestling with daily Bible reading. There will be a weekly email letter or printed handout to provide some background information for the passages that we’ll be reading together in the coming days.

This is a tough challenge and I hope that some of our younger members will take it on, reading alongside both those who may have read the Bible many times and those for whom it is a brand new experience.

I hope that the Bible Challenge will fire your imagination. I am sure that as a community of faith we will benefit from engaging with the questions, problems, surprises and delights that the Bible will provide. Do come to church on 27th October to hear more and to see the resources that will be available on that day. Let’s help each other to tackle this challenge!