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Durham University News

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Preparing an online Bible feast for Lent

(13 February 2013)

Dr Bex Lewis and Dr Rowan Williams

Dr Bex Lewis and Dr Rowan Williams

Narnia, Luke’s Gospel and the thoughts of the recently-retired Archbishop of Canterbury are all on the menu for an innovative online discussion among Christians across Britain during Lent.

The Big Read, organised by Durham University as part of The Big Bible Project, aims to bring together Christians – from all churches and none – to study the Bible, alongside contemporary texts for discussion.

This year the Big Read is focusing on Rowan Williams’ latest book, The Lion’s World, which explores C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. He explores the moral landscape of all seven novels in the series, and the powerful spiritual insights they contain.

Dr Williams, who stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of last year, has also provided video content as part of the Big Read project.

In earlier years, The Big Read – which started in the North East of England in 2010 – has looked at the Lent For Everyone series by the former Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright.

The campaign went national in 2011 and is attracting a growing social media following, using blogs, Facebook and Twitter (this year’s Twitter hashtag is #BigRead13). Last year, the Big Read website had almost 500,000 page views.

Dr Bex Lewis, Durham University Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning and the Big Bible Project’s manager, said: “Many people give up a range of foods for Lent, but The Big Bible Project encourages you to feast upon the Bible. Free house group materials are structured around menus and include ideas for conversation ‘starters’, ‘main course’ debates, a ‘dessert’ of debate and reflection. There’ll be some virtual ‘after-dinner’ chocs to take away too.

“The project is not just about online engagement,” added Dr Lewis, who is and part of CODEC (Christian Communication in a Digital Age), based at the university’s St John’s College. “It encourages small groups to meet to study the Bible, as well as engaging globally in “Bigger Bible” exchanges, allowing conversation from a range of perspectives and from across the church spectrum.”

Collaborating on the project this year are academic researchers Anna Blanch and Dr Steve Holmes, author and speaker Sheridan Voysey, broadcaster Justin Brierley and the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson.

Dr Lewis said: “Daily thoughts will be provided on the blog, including actions from @40Acts and Michael Ward, author of The Narnian Code, has agreed to undertake a webinar [online seminar].

“We are also pulling together related children’s resources for use in Easter week and preparing an online service for Easter.”

The Big Bible Project is supported by The Jerusalem Trust, Premier Christian Media, The Methodist Church, The Bible Society, Seed Resources and SPCK.

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