3 Cities, 1 Message
As we look back at 2017 and 2018 The Bible Comes To Life Exhibition seems to have gathered a momentum that is unstoppable!
Conceived in 1891 to help British Christians understand their Bibles better, the exhibition has had its years of plenty and its lean years. Since 2016, when the artefact collection came back together it seems we are in a time of plenty again!
We have just completed the last of 2018’s six exhibitions.
October took us to St Paul’s Church Newport on the Isle of Wight. This long time CMJ supporting church hosted the exhibition about 20 years ago and thought the time was ripe for a return visit. It was too early in the academic year for some of the local schools to book sessions, particularly as new safeguarding guidelines related to taking children out of school came into force during the summer break. Those that took the opportunity to visit had a wonderful time. Our station guides hammed it up in their character talks; who knew that the Wedding Planner in Cana was bad at maths and that was why the wine ran out? or that Mary had to think better of smacking Jesus’ bottom when he got lost at Passover?
One of the highlights in Newport was the visit by 3 young people from the local youth outreach. Aimed at teenagers who hang out at night in Newport’s bus station, the local youth worker has begun an Alpha course at the church hall across the road. At first the 3 visitors appeared disinterested and uncommunicative, as the short tour around the stations progressed they warmed. Two of the three took a scripture card from the Divine Language table and were genuinely touched by what they read. The third hung back as they left the church to ask “How can I have faith in God if I’ve got questions?” A conversation followed which hopefully helped her to untangle some of her confusion. We leave the next steps to the Alpha Course and the Spirit of God! Our hosts put the team of four up in a beautiful holiday home with sea views and lovely walks. Just the job after a twelve hour day talking!
In November we took the exhibition to Linton, near Cambridge. This was at Alex Jacob’s home church so we had to be on our best behaviour! Again our team, this time of six, was welcomed into the congregation and fed and watered (or cheese and wined!) by our generous hosts. The local schools responded well and one little girl from the infant school was very excited when our resident prophets Simeon and Anna (BCTL guides Graham and Suky Bright) acted out the story of meeting Mary and Joseph and their baby at the Temple. She couldn’t contain herself and jumped up to interrupt the character talk to tell the rest of her class - “The baby is Jesus, and we know all about Jesus don’t we?” Her enthusiasm and courage were met with cheers from her classmates and tears of joy from the BCTL Team. She shared with one of the team afterwards that although she believed in Jesus her Mummy and Daddy didn’t, yet! Truly an evangelist in the making!
December brought us to the ferry across the Irish Sea. The people of Northern Ireland always make you feel very welcome (and feed you to within an inch of your life!) and our early December trip to Ballyholme parish in the town of Bangor was no exception. During our five days exhibiting the team of six talked to around 450 schoolchildren from 3 year olds to 16 year olds, and over 500 adults. The way our school groups are structured means that each volunteer has a seven minute talk based around their particular station - Desert Life, Divine Language, Judaism, Feasts and Festivals, Jesus/Yeshua and Temple worship. That means we repeat our talk six times for each class or year group. Three groups each day for two days in Newport, Linton and Bangor meant we each said our piece 36 times at each venue, and that doesn’t include answering the grown-up’s questions at the open to the public sessions! Warm lemon juice with honey and Vocalzone throat pastilles are the most effective response!
Christianity, The Bible and church life are still high priorities for many people in the province and so the crowds were queueing outside the beautifully restored St Columbanus church half an hour before the official opening time each night! Lots of folk from the congregation wanted to dress in Biblical clothes and the introduction of Derry, the dromedary, added the opportunity for a selfie, and it wasn’t just the children who took advantage! (For the purists he was actually a Bactrian camel but nobody got the hump!) We were privileged to welcome Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore with his wife Liz, as well as the local press and members of many local churches from across the denominations.
The exhibition could not happen without our team of selfless volunteers. Travel, set-up, take-down, unfamiliar beds and long hours are offered and accepted, but the rewards are very generous! Special thanks go out to Graham and Suky Bright, Dave and Yvonne Evans, Leo Deacon, Naomi Oldham and Mike Scott; you are stars!
At each venue we leave out a visitors book and this is what some of the people said
Oakfield CofE Primary, Ryde IOW - “ We loved the Bible Comes To Life, Thank You”, St George’s CofE, Arreton IOW “Brilliant Afternoon the children really enjoyed the exhibition and learnt so much. A great Experience”, “I liked the smoke!” R and H, Niton, IOW “Brilliant and informative”, Linton Infants “The children were so engaged”, R, Linton “How much there is to learn, what an incredible morning” M, Linton, “Amazing and Brilliant” P, Linton “I have lurnt lodes” AND THATS A QUOTE! Crawfordsburn Primary, Bangor NI “Fabulous, so interactive and children so engaged”, A, Newtonards, NI “Awesome!” R, Bangor “Fantastic and staff so knowledgable”
Next up St Albans in February!