WELCOME TO THE PARISH OF SKETTY
OPEN THE BOOK
Open the Book. [Feb. 2016]
‘Who would like to top and tail? Who’ll narrate? And we need volunteers to be the Centurion
and Jesus. We’ll ask some of the children to be soldiers’. Preceded by a prayer, so began a recent Open the Book preparation meeting.
The Open the Book scheme is a programme of themed and dramatised Bible stories from
both the Old and the New Testaments which are taken into primary schools by teams of
volunteers. Begun in 1999 when a group of local Christians began presenting Bible stories
in their local primary schools in Bedfordshire, it has since expanded country wide, becoming a
national organisation in 2007, and is now administered by the Bible Society.
The value of Open the Book has been recognised by Estyn, Ofsted and other educational
bodies as contributing to the child’s religious, moral and spiritual education. Sessions
usually take place as part of an assembly in the school.
The Revd Alison Jones, our former curate, introduced the scheme as a new Ministry
Area initiative in early 2014 and the project was launched in three local primary schools,
Cila, Pen y Fro and Sketty, but by September, 2014, we had added a further three schools,
Dunvant, Parkland and Brynamor, the latter with a Welsh speaking team and known as
Agor y Llyfr.
During the school terms each of these schools is visited on a weekly basis. The project
has become ecumenical as volunteers from other local churches have joined the team and is
a positive example of Christians working together with a common objective. The format
and scripts for each session are followed closely and carefully as the material has to be
suitable for children from multifaith backgrounds. Our aim is to familiarise them with some
of the major, well-
are not there to proselytise. At the very least it will introduce the children to Biblical events
which are depicted and referred to in Western literature, art and music and are part of our
Christian heritage and which would have been familiar to past generations.
Each session, which takes no longer than twenty minutes, begins with a brief
introduction to the day’s story. That story, frequently taken from the Lion Storyteller
Bible, is then read and dramatised simply with the participation of the team and some of
the children. There follows a short conclusion and time for reflection after which there is a
prayer. The children are invited to say Amen at the end if they wish to make it their prayer.
Great acting skills are not required although a loud clear voice helps. The group of
volunteers is flexible and the teams going out to the schools vary from week to week to
take into account those who are unavailable for whatever reason. The planning meeting each
week is of the utmost importance and fairly chaotic. After prayer, we read through the
story, decide how we are going to present it, who is doing what on which day (we are not
generates a lot of laughter. We also decide what props we need and, because we are doing
it on a weekly basis, we keep them simple. In the school, the inclusion of some or all of the
children also has to be straightforward as we have no time to rehearse them beforehand.
We are fortunate in having an efficient administrator in the group who follows the
meeting by sending a swift email confirming who is doing what, on which day, at what time
and at which school. Invaluable!
All volunteers have to have safeguarding checks. We follow the Open the Book
code of practice strictly and work closely with the schools. We are sensitive to their needs
and respect the fact that we are invited visitors. Apart from the value of the Bible stories to
the children, the scheme fosters an important link between church and community. With
several primary schools in our Ministry Area, it is an ideal way in which to work together
and to get to know our friends from ther churches. Although we are deeply serious in our
aims, we as individuals benefit too and derive great enjoyment from our contact with the
children. We really need more volunteers. Have you thought of giving the scheme a try?
More information can be found on the website
Elaine C Gale