To read or not to read

A friend of mine sits down at the table every morning and reads a Bible passage to their children. As they eat their breakfast, they discuss the passage. It sounds so wonderful and inclusive, but for me a bit aspirational. My experience is completely different. Trying to get my teenagers out of bed and to the table was a victory but I never got them all at the table at the same time. Occasionally one of them would ask me a biblical question and I would scrabble about in my head to try and work out a way of explaining it in language they would understand.

Two of our children have multiple disabilities (now aged 32 and 24), they were excluded from many places as they grew up, church was one. It is a different era now and churches are trying out inclusivity to see if it makes a good fit for their people. It is an exciting time to be around church and church people as they grapple with access issues in all forms.

I have been on a student placement in Biblica for the summer and this has allowed me to look more closely at the resource, The NIrV Accessible Edition.

Biblica, the international Bible Society exists to provide the Bible in contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world will have the opportunity to be transformed by Jesus Christ.

The NIrV Accessible Edition delivers this remit two ways. It is a contemporary translation using words this generation will understand with shorter sentences and simpler language. Its format is unique using more white space, a new line for each verse, a single column and specially designed 16pt font. Many people like my friend and her children are able to sit down and read any version of the Bible and understand it. However, for some, like my children accessing the Bible is a real struggle. The NIrV Accessible Edition is one jigsaw piece to creating greater Bible access and inclusion within church and the sharing of God’s word in a way that the transforming power of Jesus Christ might be experienced in more people’s lives.

Reading the story of how each element of the Accessible Bible came together from the paper to the font and all the other aspects it is amazing it only took 3 years to develop. And hearing the emotional stories of people who had given up on finding a Bible they could engage with has been both heart-warming and heart rendering or wrenching. Andrew has spent years trying to find a Bible he can study and engage with, but due to his dyslexia reading God’s Word became one of the most frustrating aspects of his faith. He says:

This Bible has given me an accessibility to God’s Word which simply wasn’t available to me before. It has fundamentally changed my attitude to interacting with Scripture.

One of the partners in developing this new Bible edition, Torch Trust has a fellowship group in Belfast. Cameron, the leader spoke about how the NIrV Accessible Edition struck him:

My first impression was, it’s a big book! But once I opened it the first thing that struck me was the page colour– it helps to lift the print a bit and enables the words to stand out off the page, which is good for me as I only have one working eye. It is written in an easier language so it touches my heart more quickly!

I love that concept the easier language touches the heart more quickly! Making the Bible accessible to all has already changed lives. Kim, a fun loving 15-year-old girl yelled to her mum:

Mummy, Mummy, I can read it; I can read my Bible.

Parenting with additional needs is never going to be a walk in the park no matter what it is. There is an isolation in this work caused by many factors, including our own self-sufficiency but that is exacerbated by lack of tolerance, kindness, goodness in the world today. In fact, one of the verses that jumped off the page for me when reading the Accessible edition was indeed the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. Those who belong to Jesus Christ have nailed their sinful desires to his cross. They don’t want these things anymore. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others. Galatians 5:22-26 NIrV

In reading it over and over I could see the nuance of the language was not lost by the new wording, the imagery it created was just as powerful as any other translation. The next time I get my children (as adults) to all sit down together I will experiment with reading the Bible leaving the discussion open as we eat together in love.

This was first published on the Care for the Family website.