'A story worth telling and retelling'
Helen Paynter explains why she has produced a short daily vlog in lockdown, going through the Bible one book at a time
At the risk of sounding like the New Seekers (I’d like to Teach the World to Sing), there are few things I love doing as much as helping people – the more, the better – get deeper into the word of God. So when lockdown started, I had an idea. It occurred to me that there would be a lot of people furloughed and stuck at home, who might welcome the opportunity to use the time to learn more about the Bible. Maybe I could produce a handful of studies that would be of use to people…?
Over the course of about 24 hours, this quite modest idea grew and grew and became a monster, though how much of a monster wasn’t clear until I was well under way! Rather than a written resource, why not some study videos? Rather than a few general ones, why not look at each book in turn? So I decided that I would produce a short daily vlog, going through the Bible one book at a time. Each video would provide a bit of an introduction and overview, along with some drill-down on one point of particular interest and value.
Well, my intentions of speaking no longer than ‘ten minutes, fifteen maximum’, as I declared in the first video, lasted about a day. But with a handful of exceptions, I managed to keep each video below thirty minutes – a magnificent piece of self-discipline, in my own opinion!
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I began at just the time that the government had told people with chronic health conditions (I have asthma) to lock down for 12 weeks. And I ended up producing 79 daily videos, which pretty much covered that whole period. You can do the maths as well as I can – this means a few books had two videos, but most only one.
What did I learn? Well, I learned a lot about producing videos and speaking to camera, though I don’t claim to be anything like expert yet! In my first video my phone rang half-way through (I know, rookie error). I didn’t know how to edit that out of the video, and I certainly didn’t want to start recording all over again. So I just ploughed on and uploaded it in all its glorious rawness. After a while I discovered that I had the technology to clip and edit, though sometimes the tool let me down, and the final processed videos contained little bits I thought I’d removed – sorry about that! If it’s any consolation, you should see some of the rubbish I clipped out. I think my personal favourite was when I said that some people believe that parts of the Old Testament were written in the intertestamental period… think about it...
As I’ve intimated above, the project proved to be much larger than I’d anticipated. I estimate that it took an average of 2½ hours to prepare for, record and process each video. This meant that some writing plans had to be put on hold – I’m just in the process of picking them up now. But I don’t for one moment regret doing it. For me personally it’s provided the opportunity to think harder about some biblical books I haven’t taught on or studied in depth. It’s helped me to appreciate once again something of the scope and sweep of scripture. And it’s given me the opportunity to speak for a cumulative thirty or so hours on my favourite subject! What’s not to like about that?
But much more than this, I’ve been deeply touched by a steady stream of emails and social media contacts, often from strangers, who’ve written to tell me that they’re valuing it. Some have spoken of their own love for the Bible and how it has sustained them in times of great need. For those who got in touch in this way – thank you so much. It helped give me the impetus to keep going when the elephant was proving quite chewy.
I’m hugely grateful to Mike Lowe, Communications Manager for Baptists Together, not just for his faithful uploading of the videos every day – even on days off. But also, and hugely, for his enthusiastic championing of the project, and his daily encouragements as we exchanged emails. I’m also grateful to my family for putting up with the daily exhortations to ‘keep out, I’m recording’. The more observant will notice that once or twice the message didn’t get through, but only occasionally.
And I’m so, so grateful to the Father and the Son for sending the Spirit into the world; and to the Spirit for inspiring the writing and the preservation and the translation of this glorious book that contains the word of God; and the Father, Son and Spirit for making it a story worth telling and retelling. There’s nothing like it. If only the whole world knew it. But there, I’m sounding like the New Seekers again.
Helen Paynter, Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence, Bristol Baptist College
Helen's Tour of the Bible can be found on the Baptists Together Youtube channel
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