The BRF Story

Our history goes back almost 100 years, and (we think) makes for very exciting reading.

'It was a chance conversation - or was it just chance?'

Our journey started in an Anglican church in Brixton, south London. The vicar, Revd Leslie Mannering, was talking with one of the staff at the church about the spiritual needs of the church. They were considering the same question that many churches ask towards the end of the year: is there anything further that might be done to "get a move on" during the New Year?'

The course of their prayer and conversation is illustrated in the parish magazine from December 1921:

We are so apt to be immersed in organisations, committees and plans, that we become entangled in our own machinery. Even if the machinery is running smoothly and well, there is a danger of it being - just machinery. It is the dynamic of personal religion that really moves men and things. We need to get back to the fundamentals of our faith.
Revd Leslie Mannering, BRF Founder

Revd Leslie Mannering - BRF Founder

Back to basics

In January 1922, The Fellowship of St. Matthew came into existence, aiming to develop the spiritual life of the parish in the areas of prayer, Bible reading and communion.

A new monthly leaflet was devised which provided Bible passages for daily reading with brief explanatory notes and prayer needs for the parish, the wider church and the world. The church also started weekly Fellowship services on Wednesday evenings. Those attending discussed what they had been reading, raised any questions they had and heard about the prayer needs of the parish in greater detail.

Revd Leslie Mannering writes:

How did this venture fare? Within a month 100 people had signed on. At the end of the first year the number had increased to 175, and I wrote in the parochial year-book that the Fellowship 'was making a very real contribution to the spiritual life of the parish'. At the end of the second year (1923) there were 250 members, and twelve months later over 300...

Bible reading notes from 1922

Growing numbers

By the end of 1926, several other churches had adopted the scheme, bringing the total membership up to 1500. With the growth of numbers, some changes in organisation were necessary. In due course, the name of the Fellowship changed from 'The Fellowship of St. Matthew' to The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF).

Over the coming years, more and more copies of the Bible reading notes were printed. By 1929, some 20,000 copies were being printed; by 1939 this number had swelled to 238,000, with readers across the world.

The seed had grown into a sturdy sapling, and was beginning to send out branches.
Revd Leslie Mannering, BRF Founder, 1924

The shape of our work today

The past 90 years have certainly seen BRF flourish, with new branches growing and bearing fruit, and old branches being pruned or cut as the season warranted. While we have always produced and distributed daily Bible reading notes, BRF is now involved in much, much more.

Today we work in four areas, but threads of how we approach our work today can be traced back to the early days of BRF.

Christian growth and understanding of the Bible

Seeing lives shaped by the Bible, prayer and whole-life discipleship.

Church outreach in the local community

BRF is the home of three programmes that churches are embracing to great effect as they seek to engage with their local communities and transform lives.

Teaching Christianity in primary schools

Enabling primary-aged children and their teachers to explore Christianity and the Bible creatively and confidently.

Children's and family ministry

Working with children and families, helping to bring the Bible alive.

Looking ahead

The context in which we operate and the range of activities we're engaged in have changed and evolved over the decades. Yet the values and aims that lie at the heart of BRF today continue to be true to the original vision that inspired Revd Leslie Mannering back in 1922.

Our conviction remains the same - encountering the Christian faith transforms lives and communities.

As we look ahead, there are certainly challenges and needs to be met (discover how you can get involved), yet our hope is the same:

What of the future? Putting our trust in God and not in ourselves, we should face it with high expectation.
Revd Leslie Mannering, BRF Founder, 1947