Biblical Learning with Text-Shy/Oral Cultures

Can clergy in training be equipped to better facilitate Bible engagement within ‘traditional tabloid cultures’? This three year partnership project between the Christian charity Unlock, and the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, seeks to address this challenge.

A concern that the way in which the Christian Faith and the Gospel are shared is often alienating for oral learners in urban white working class culture, who can read but generally don’t. A desire to enable local Christians with approaches to Bible engagement that are culturally appropriate for such contexts and a desire to ‘set the Gospel free’ in deprived urban communities.

Unlocking real life stories of urban people
Revealing Good News of the Down to Earth Christ
Releasing life changing skills and confidence

Unlock has been enabling Bible Engagement in deprived urban communities using the learning cycle cycle shown here, for over 40 years. What was new in this case was a Partnership with The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham and in particular with the training of their Methodist Deacons. Our Unlock Workers were selected from amongst each Methodist Deacon cohort and encouraged to share their Unlock learning and experience amongst their fellow students. This meant that all Methodist Deacons trained at Queens will have had some exposure to Unlock approaches, and one from each year group will have had significant training and experience in the approach to take with them into their future Ministry.

Those who have been Unlock workers report that they continue to use Unlock approaches in their Ministry long after leaving Queen’s. Groups established by Unlock workers continue to meet, and people who have come to faith and (sometimes back) into Church, continue to be involved long after the worker has moved on. A wider group of Queen’s students have taken up opportunities to attend Unlock Training events and have been receptive to the approach, identifying places within their own church and community where it can be applied.

Resources developed in the course of this work:-

Three examples illustrate the personal impact of our Unlock Birmingham work:-

Rediscovering the Bible
A local church youth leader has had an Unlock worker working alongside him for some weeks, facilitating bible engagement with his youth group. The youth leader says that he has never really engaged with scripture in this way before but has now started reading his own bible more regularly.

Loss of Identity
In an Unlock session, a conversation about “paradigm shift” following one of the films really helped a lady sense why she had been feeling as if her world wasn’t quite right – she had been out of work for a while and so one of the things which defined her (i.e. her role) was missing. She was able to make sense of this in light of affirming scripture.

Coming to Terms with Loss
A visitor from another church attended the (Unlock) ‘Veronica’ session on the week that we discussed dealing with death without knowing that this was the week’s subject. She had lost her mum at an early age and had never come to terms with it. After the session she indicated that she has now had some “closure/acceptance” that she had never felt before. She stated that she felt God really spoke to her through the session and gave her a real assurance and comfort and she is now finally able to grieve for her mum.

Unlock itself had no capacity to fund this work. None of it would have taken place without the Saltley Trust funding

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