How Rachel regained her passion for the Bible

Learning to live more fully in the word

'I wanted to regain a passion for reading the Bible'

Do you ever feel you could get more out of your personal Bible reading or group Bible study, if you only had a better grasp of where the original texts came from and why and how they were written? Have you dreamed of going to Bible college but never had the time or money?

Project Editor Rachel Tranter interacts with the Bible a lot in her work on BRF's books and Bible reading notes, but her personal Bible reading, she admits, was in the doldrums. So when she heard about the week-long Bible Engagement course developed by Cliff College in collaboration with BRF, she jumped at the chance to go.

'I thought I would be surrounded by clever people who all knew a lot more than I did.'

So it was that, on a wet and windy Sunday evening in March, Rachel arrived at the Cliff College campus. She was, she admits, a little apprehensive: 'I thought I would be surrounded by clever people who all knew a lot more than I did.'

But Rachel needn’t have feared. The other eleven students on the course were a mix of ordinary people who, like her, were 'trying to get to know God better,' she says, 'all willing to be honest and vulnerable'. Some had been to university, others hadn’t. Rachel is in her second job; others were approaching retirement and using the course as a way to realign themselves with their core values.

The college campus, too, Rachel says, surprisingly felt like 'a cosy and welcoming retreat centre', and all the students got to know each other better as they opened up over the delicious home-cooked meals served three times a day.

Cliff College

Going deeper with the Bible

The course covered a lot of ground, starting off with 'some meaty theological stuff about what the Bible is, what it’s for and how it came to be,' explains Rachel, admitting that getting this important building block in place was a challenge for everyone.

'The rest of the week was more of a mix,' she says. 'We heard Peter Phillips talk about the Bible in a digital age and the Bible in discipleship, which drew on his book Engaging the Word (BRF, 2017). Two Cliff College faculty members, Ed Mackenzie and Kirsi Cobb, led very practical sessions on genre, and they taught practical techniques for reading the Old and New Testaments with confidence. I think everyone came out feeling more confident in engaging with different forms of texts.'

Rachel found Kirsi Cobb to be 'spectacularly passionate about her subject, and she taught with contagious enthusiasm and energy. It was really inspiring to hear a young, female Old Testament scholar.'

‘We read the Bible because we want to know Christ’
Revd Dr Mike Parsons, course leader
Mike Parsons

Throughout the week, course leader and former BRF commissioning editor Mike Parsons introduced students to a variety of immensely helpful tools: reading strategies for both macro (whole Bible) and micro (individual passages) approaches.

Here’s one example you might like to try yourself:

Spend 20 minutes reading Psalm 63:1-5 and reflect on these four questions:

  1. What is God saying to me through the passage?
  2. What do I need to thank God for from this passage?
  3. What do I need to confess as a result of this passage?
  4. And what do I now need to ask God for?

Rachel especially enjoyed the opportunity to try out the Ignatian method of reading imaginatively, focusing on the story of the woman anointing Jesus with perfume in Luke 7:36-50.

'God wants to speak to me'

'If you persevere with Bible study there are immense rewards,' says Rachel, who says the Bible Engagement course gave her a renewed enthusiasm for reading the Bible, new techniques and methods for reading the Bible in a way that actually engages with it devotionally, and an increased understanding of the big picture of the Bible and how it works as a narrative. 'Reading individual passages make much more sense in the context of this understanding.'

Above all, Rachel now feels 'a renewed confidence that God wants to speak to me through the words of the Bible'. And it’s whetted her appetite for further study – she immediately signed up for a ten-week course on the Old Testament run by her local diocese.

'I honestly believe the Bible Engagement course would benefit anyone with a hunger to know more of the things of God.'

Upcoming BRF/Cliff College courses

BRF has partnered with Cliff College on a number of courses that help apply Christian faith to real life and discipleship, for people of any denomination or background.

Debbie Thrower

Introduction to Ministry among Older People

27-29 September

Andrew Roberts

Holy Habits Retreat

11-13 October 2019; 6-8 March 2020

Bible and praying hands

Certificate in Bible Engagement

9-13 March 2020

Parenting for Faith course

Certificate in Parenting for Faith

1-5 June 2020