Thousands of people across Britain and Northern Ireland have hand transcribed the Bible in the last 12 months, and the final version was presented to the Methodist Conference in Southport this weekend.
As part of the 400th year anniversary of the King James Bible, people were invited to handwrite verses from the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures.
Volunteers joined in from across communities, including prisons, schools, colleges, libraries, nursing homes, airports and shopping centres to copy verses from the New Revised Standard (NRSV) version of the Bible, after Methodists decided to transcribe the scripture at their Conference in Portsmouth last year.
The Rev Lionel Osborn, President of Methodist Conference, commented: “The hand-written Bible has been a tremendous success. It has enabled people to engage with Scripture at perhaps a slower pace than usual and to really think about what they are copying. For many it has been a deep and enriching experience.”
The handwritten Bible, which will be bound in 31 volumes and then tour the country, will also be available to read online on at the Methodist Church's Deepening Discipleship website. Verses have been written in English, Chinese, Welsh and braille with accompanying illustrations.
The Rev Jenny Ellis, Methodist Co-ordinator of Evangelism, Spirituality and Discipleship, said: “It has been wonderful to see how this project has captured the imaginations of many local churches. Methodists have used it as an opportunity to reach out and work together with people in their communities. The Scriptures were originally passed down through word of mouth and then through handwritten scripts, and so asking people to write out verses is a particularly significant way of valuing Scripture and its life giving words. The King James Bible was a book that changed the lives of many.”
The idea to celebrate the year of the Bible with a handwritten version was put forward by Daniella Fetuga-Joensuu from the London district at last year’s Methodist conference. Ms Ellis then drew up guidelines for the 31 Methodist districts, enabling them to organise the project as creatively as possible in their regions.
The guidelines included advice on how to organise scriptoriums or writing “sit-outs” in public places. A scriptorium outside Westminster Central Hall attracted so many people that participants were limited to writing one word per verse. Some churches filmed their scriptoriums and posted them on YouTube. The handwritten Bible – a project that cost £3,500 in total – also travelled through Durham and Frankland prisons.
Janet Deakin, an administrator at Methodist Church House in London, wrote her verses in braille. “I have a version of the Bible in braille,” said Ms Deakin. “It is made up of 35 volumes and they sit on two shelves of my bookcase at home. I also have five versions of the Bible on my braille sense machine.”
The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian denominations in Britain, with nearly 241,000 members and regular contact with over 580,000 people. It has 5,237 churches across the country, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.