Stretch yourself spiritually with The BIGRead 14 for Lent

Published 28 February 2014  |  
(Photo: Keith Blundy)
Dr Stephen Cherry (l) launching Barefoot Prayers at Durham Cathedral shop, seen here alongside David Bryan, author of Jesus: His Home, His Journey, His Challenge

Back for its fifth year, The BIGRead 14 invites you to share the journey of discipleship this Lent with others online and locally, reading the Bible, meditating on Stephen Cherry's new book 'Barefoot Prayers' and responding in whatever creative ways occur to you.

The BIGRead 14 is run by The BIGBible Project, a small team of people with a big vision to see people communicating the Gospel effectively and growing as disciples through digital communication. They "seek to draw Christians from all churches and none into deeper engagement with the Bible through local reading groups and online conversations".

Reverend Canon Dr Stephen Cherry's new book 'Barefoot Prayers' is a series of poem/prayers written specifically for the Lent and Easter period. BIGRead's focus this year is prayer and spirituality, but, as Stephen says: "It's all about participation, and it's my sincere invitation to you to join in, exactly as yourself with honesty and truth. Share the journey to Easter with the BIGRead."

The BIGBible Project is excited to be using 'Barefoot Prayers' for the BIGRead text this year as it "is ideal for people who may have little time for sitting and reading but more time for thinking and reflecting".

Stephen explains how the book came about: "It started with me taking a notebook and jotting down some spiritual meditations when I was away. I kept collecting them and received some good feedback from people, saying they were very accessible and moving.

"The idea is that people can take the book with them on the Lenten journey and it will be spiritually stretching."

The BIGBible website will provide daily readings, taken from the book, from 2 March through to 26 April. It also provides other ways for people to engage: as well as reading the book, there will be free housegroup study materials developed by Rev Dr Kate Bruce and Dr Bex Lewis, a Facebook page that discusses the BIGRead themes, and Twitter discussions.  Participants are also encouraged to respond as creatively as they like to the daily poems.

As the site explains: "We would love to see creative responses to the poems, including suggestions of Bible verses that they make you think of, art/photography, poems written in response, or reflections/questions/anecdotes you may think of… keep it simple though – this should nourish you, not become a pressure!"

Dr Lewis, Durham University Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning and the BIGBible Project's Director, explains the idea behind providing housegroup materials: "Many people give up a range of foods for Lent, but The BIGBible Project encourages you to feast upon the Bible. Free housegroup materials are structured around menus and include ideas for conversation 'starters', 'main course' debates, and a reflective 'dessert'. There'll be some 'after-dinner' chocs (activities) to take away into the week too."

BIGRead, along with other Christian organisations such as HOPE, Parish Pump and CARE, is also partnering with Love Your Streets to encourage people to #Do1NiceThing each day during Lent - matching each day with the poem or meditation that has been read.

The challenge aims to equip people with a different #Do1NiceThing activity every day between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Dr Lewis comments on why they have linked with this initiative: "Our lives have become more busy, hectic and harried (I speak from experience here). Lent offers us an opportunity to slow down, to reflect on some prayerful poetry along with others via #BIGRead14, and then put something simple into practice as we each seek to #Do1NiceThing."

The BIGRead 14 organisers are keen for the materials they have prepared for Lent to be an inspiration to those involved, providing community and creativity.

Dr Bex Lewis: "There are strong biblical precedents for engaging with creativity and the arts, but we are often too busy to engage with it, and when we do it is often a solitary activity. Last year Stephen ran #notbusy for Lent, rethinking our relationship with busyness. The 'poem-prayers' that Stephen has provided take this a step further. They are a starting point in slowing down, and becoming aware of the beauty around us: online and offline, inside and outside, specifically Christian or not.

"We can meditate on these thoughts throughout the day, as we grow in our own discipleship journey, but also share with each other (online), encouraging and challenging as we see the different responses that are possible – there's certainly no 'right answer' expected. This goes for the daily poems and the housegroup material."

Dr Cherry's book was launched at Durham Cathedral on 2 February, along with Dr David Bryan's book 'Jesus – His Home, His Journey, His Challenge'. The housegroup materials will be launched officially on the website on 2 March, while Newcastle Cathedral will be offering a physical space to go and engage with each week's core poem. And on 20 April there will be an online service at 1pm. If you would like to contribute to the service, contact big.bible@durham.ac.uk.

Join in with the BIGRead 14 for Lent:
Find housegroup materials here

Find the daily poems here

Join the Facebook group here

Chat with others through Twitter with the following hashtag:
#bigread14

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