Have you ever read the Bible out loud in a public space? What’s it like? We went to Westminster to find out.
Truth to Power is a project being run throughout 2018, to read the whole Bible out loud in Parliament Square. Some of us will resonate with the idea – some of us may struggle with it. Should the Bible be declared, or dialogued? Will it be welcomed or ignored? We signed up to read on February 12th – interested to know how people would respond, and also how it would feel to read the Bible so intentionally in that space.
It’s interesting how it feels to read the Bible in this way! Mostly I read the Bible with other people. Often I read it thinking about what I want to say or write based on what I’m reading – and study its context and meaning. We read (or watch or listen) together as a staff team twice a week – and always get into conversation as we do. So to read out loud into an ‘empty’ space and without other people interacting was a different experience. The longer passages we read were both stories where Israel or Jesus were interacting with power – Pharaoh and Pilate. That felt relevant in the space. Then we cheated a bit and read Matthew 5 (the beatitudes) and Isaiah 58 as well! We read those passages as a prayer for people passing by, and as a statement of how God calls us to live and to lead – “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free … To share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.”
During my teens, I pretty much grew up in a church environment where reading the Bible in open, public spaces was very common. We'd rally up every Saturday morning and head out on our street evangelism exercises. But over time I found myself engaging in one-on-one conversations about Jesus with people, instead of holding the mic and reading God's Word aloud at passers-by. Now fast forward eight years – I'm back reading the Bible out loud – and it was quite refreshing! Some chose to take advantage of the bright, fresh and crisp weather, stopping to listen to the passages we were reading. Others may have caught a few words amidst taking in London's landmarks. The experience reminded me that there are many ways we can welcome and invite our communities into the message of love, peace, equality and justice. Whether it's in our speech, our actions or our thoughts, we can take up opportunities to help people experience good news. Interestingly, it also reminded me just how long I hadn't actually held a physical Bible for! It's great having mobile apps at your fingertips, but I've got to admit … nothing quite beats having the pages running against your fingertips.
How do you enjoy reading, sharing and engaging with the Bible?
What have your experiences been like?