Eight South Norfolk churches in Bible marathon
2011: Eight South Norfolk churches and over 100 readers were involved in a two-month long public reading of the King James Bible to help marks the version’s 400th anniversary. John Webster reports on a mission accomplished.
The proposal to commit to a reading of the entire 1611 version of the Bible authorized by King James met with a positive response at the Upper Tas Valley Benefice meeting held in January. The plan to read on Saturdays started in Lent and included all the churches, including St Mary’s at Forncett - which is emerging gradually from its forlorn redundant state since 1980 into a new focus for the community.
The public reading was not a completely new idea, as Ashwellthorpe had already had two forays into such a venture, most recently at the Millennium. By the time the Diocese had helped mount a public reading at the Forum in Norwich we were well underway into the Old Testament!
Personally I viewed the pledge as an act of personal witness to highlight the power of the Word as translated into our mother tongue for all to understand. I was therefore delighted that so many of our local folk – some even outside our group of parishes – contributed to this commitment. The figures below speak for themselves.
At the start of each Saturday’s reading I personally dedicated the reading to all our parishioners and to the memory of Revd Clive Styles, our late rector. The special 2011 prayer was also spoken at that time.
Starting as it did on March 5 it served in some ways as a Lenten pilgrimage, echoing the historic background of our faith, as we moved through Passiontide – late this year - into early May (see pictured above Mary reading at Ashwellthorpe).
As evening fell we turned the final pages of the Book of Revelations with its stunning images in the modest, softly lit surroundings of Forncett St Edmund
church at Forncett End,
and Churchwarden Margaret
quietly intoned the final “Amen!” at 8.29pm on May 7. Terry
(see pictured right
) had loyally accompanied us on this final stage of the journey and said how privileged they felt to share the achievement.
I would like to think that, despite the challenges of lengthy lists of unfamiliar and tongue tormenting names, all those who volunteered to read aloud the King James Bible will have enjoyed the experience and been enriched not just now but in future months by the power of the word. Perhaps it will encourage us to revisit passages read and to explore other less familiar corners of the sacred books which combine to form an essential part of our cultural heritage and faith.
Warm thanks were expressed to all those – especially the churchwardens – who contributed to the completion and success of the venture. The task is done.
What was involved
Churches in reading sessions: Ashwellthorpe All Saints (2), Forncett St Edmund (2), Forncett St Mary, Forncett St Peter, Fundenhall St Nicholas, Hapton St Margaret, Tacolneston All Saints, Wreningham All Saints.
Number of readers: 103.
Ages of readers: 9 – 95.
Total reading time: 86 hours.
Readers contributing over 10 hours reading: 5.
Readers contributing in all eight churches: 3