Open The Book

One of the ways in which many of our churches are serving their local school is by taking Open the Book (OTB) into Collective Worship. We spoke to Debbie from St Mary, Barwell and Elizabeth from St Mary, Wymeswold who are both part of their local OTB teams.

Elizabeth explains what OTB is “Open the Book is an initiative by the Bible Society to give primary school children the opportunity to hear Bible stories, delivered by volunteers from local churches during Collective Worship at their school. It aligns to the criteria used by OFSTED, ESTYN and SIAMS when inspecting Collective Worship in schools and is an entirely free service to each school. The idea is that the children should learn about and engage with Christian values through stories specifically re-told for young children and delivered in a lively way. There is a three year rolling programme with stories taken from “The Lion Storyteller Bible” written by Bob Hartman, a professional storyteller for 20 years. This delightful book is expressly written to be read aloud by a narrator (storyteller) while the OTB Handbook explains how to incorporate a dramatic presentation into the reading. Children who wish to do so are encouraged to take part in the drama and there is often an opportunity for everyone present to join in – a chorus of temple-goers, Pharisees, soldiers, waves etc. Audience participation, carefully directed by the narrator, is definitely welcomed. The Handbook provides an introduction and conclusion based on the theme of the story for the narrator to read before and after the presentation. The narrator ends by leading a quiet moment for reflection followed by a short prayer both of which continue the same theme. The whole event takes 15 minutes at most.”

Debbie goes on to explain what made her and her team get involved with OTB “The church wanted to improve links with our local school and for the school to see St Mary’s as their church. The team are passionate about passing on the faith, our work is a mission to the local community. We know how important it was for us to learn bible stories at an early age.” She went on to tell of how the project has impacted the church’s relationship to the community “When we bump into children in the street they will always say hello, and sometimes I ask them ‘Do you remember the story we did this week?’ and then that starts a conversation with them and the parents where we can share the bible story all over again” Elizabeth also sighted wanting to share her faith as her reason for getting involved “I joined the team because like many others I am keen that the Christian message should be taken out to young people including the very young and I felt that because I had always enjoyed drama, and as a lecturer was comfortable in front of an audience, this was an area in which I could contribute. I am so glad I volunteered because this has been the most joyous and rewarding experience. The children love OTB and we love seeing their enjoyment, the response they have to the stories and most importantly how they engage with the message contained in them. There have been so many high points but if I have to pick out one it will be all the children in assembly as the rest of the flock at a party celebrating the shepherd’s return with his lost sheep.”

Both Elizabeth and Debbie would recommend trying OTB in your local school, as Elizabeth says; “If your church members are looking for a new initiative in mission I cannot recommend Open the Book strongly enough. I am not saying it will increase the number of regular worshippers on a Sunday morning but the response from the children is there to see and we pray the seeds have been sown.”


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