Stories of Old Testament women unveiled

In the first in a new series of articles based on Clare and Micah Hayns’ best-selling book Unveiled, Iris Jenkins talks about how the book changed her perspective on the Old Testament…

12 June 2022

Earlier this year, in a first for BRF, digital marketing officer Iris Jenkins* and videographer Adrian Serecut, produced a series of eight stunning videos based on Clare and Micah Hayns’ best-selling BRF title Unveiled: Women of the Old Testament and the choices they made. The videos are all available to view now, without charge, and come with additional downloadable material, including questions for group discussion or individual reflection.

Iris completed the series just before going on maternity leave, but had time to tell us more about the project and why she felt inspired to take it on.

Brilliant illustrations

‘The book is brilliantly illustrated with original art by Micah,’ says Iris, ‘and it contains lots of different reflections and prayers about women in the Old Testament. For me, the illustrations really lent themselves to the idea of a video series. We’d not done anything like this before, and it was a really exciting project to develop and work on.’

But for Iris, there was far more to Micah’s art than technical skill. ‘We so often see paintings of New Testament scenes and characters,’ she says, ‘and in particular depictions of all the key moments in Jesus’ life. But I was really compelled by these images of Old Testament women. It’s so great to see these neglected women of the Bible somehow brought to life in Micah’s paintings and drawings.

‘What’s particularly special about the way he created these images is that he explored the women’s stories; he really focused on what we know of their lives and experiences, and that comes through very powerfully in his work. I love the way he’s able to convey a particular emotion in each woman’s face. I can relate to that in a personal way.’

But there were some hard decisions to make when they could only include eight stories: ‘We had to be brutal when we were picking which ones to focus on. The book is divided into eight sections, so we decided to take one from each section. In the end we chose some that we thought were particularly relevant, including some that we all know very well, like the story of Eve. But then we also picked some less familiar Old Testament women, like the daughters of Zelophehad. So there’s a variety.’

Links across the centuries

Each video starts with an introduction. Two students, Megan Chester and Matilda Hadcock, worked with Clare and Micah on the series. They introduce the story and pose a couple of questions for Clare to pick up on. Clare then talks more about the women and reflects on their stories, often in the light of contemporary experience, making the links between these ancient women and their modern sisters.

Each video ends with a thought, question or suggestion for prayer. Along with the videos, there are downloadable questions for individual reflection and group discussion, plus a prayer.  

Filming at Christ Church

Because Clare is the Christ Church college chaplain, Iris, Adrian and media assistant Ben Bloxham were privileged with the free run of Christ Church: a rare and exciting opportunity. But as Iris explains, there was a lot of work to do before filming began:

‘We storyboarded each woman, starting with an introduction for each of the videos. Then Clare did all the legwork, creating the reflections and writing the scripts. Then, when it came to actual filming, and working on the visuals, we wanted each story to be filmed in places that we felt correlated in some way with the character and reflected who they were. So, for example, with Queen Vashti, we filmed in the banqueting hall at Christ Church, to get a sense of majesty.

‘One of my favourite locations was in one of the Christ Church gardens under the tree that inspired ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll. Just seeing that tree, and being able to feature it in the Eve video, was amazing.’

‘One of my favourite locations was under the tree that inspired Jabberwocky.’

They also filmed Micah in his studio, which he calls ‘Jungle’. ‘And it does look like a jungle!’ says Iris, ‘There’s a big tree in the middle of it. It’s very artistic!’

The team had a lot of equipment to lug around Christ Church, and there was a bit of trial and error. They knew where we wanted to film but sometimes the weather got in the way, for example, so they had to have some contingency plans.

A new passion for the Old Testament

The team spent a full three days filming, shooting bits and pieces across the series – rather than doing one complete subject at a time – and then filming all eight introductions on the same day.

It then took Adrian several days to edit all the video, which he completed just before Iris left to go on maternity leave. ‘It was mammoth job,’ she says, ‘and committed so many resources, but my hope is that people will really engage with the videos and the downloadable material and that their passion for the Old Testament will be reignited.

‘When it comes to the Bible, we often spend a lot of time in the New Testament, but there is so much in the Old Testament that is really worth exploring. For me, that’s particularly true when you start looking at the stories of people: that’s what I was passionate about.

‘My hope is that people will really engage with the videos and that their passion for the Old Testament will be reignited.’

‘A lot of the books in the Old Testament can be quite heavy and it’s hard to get into them. But reflecting on a particular person, seeing the world through their eyes, imagining how they felt as they were living their life all those years ago – that completely changed my view of the Old Testament. Working on the Unveiled videos has helped me to engage so much more with some of the other books of the Bible, and I hope other people have the same experience when they work with the videos and the other material.

‘There’s such rich content there, and even though these women lived many centuries ago, their stories are still so current. Lot’s wife, for example – she was a refugee, and you only have to look at the news today with so many women, children and families fleeing from a war zone. It really brings home how relevant these ancient stories still are, and it helped me to look at today’s stories in such a different way. I’d love other people to have the same experience.

‘I really want people to watch the videos and download the questions. I’d love them to think about using the materials in a home group, discussion group or a women’s group. It would work really well for student groups too. There are lots of different resources that you can draw on. Watch the videos. Download the discussion starters. Buy the book! You won’t regret it!’

*Iris is currently on maternity leave, and Trevor Budd has joined the team as digital marketing officer in her absence.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and the Unveiled book and videos you might also be in interested in the following resources…