Open the Book – Telling Stories – Claire Higgins

I was interested to see the caption ‘Telling Stories’ on the front cover of Cranleigh Magazine last month and intrigued to read Danyah Miller’s article focusing on the subject.

For several years I’ve been a member of first Cranleigh’s and now Rudgwick’s Open the Book team. As the name suggests, we’re all about story telling, stories from the bible, ‘the Book’. Encouraged by the Cranleigh team, ten people in Rudgwick volunteered to begin a team in our village. As part of the nationwide charity of the same name, we attended Open the Book’s training and completed DBS checks so we can take part in local schools’ assemblies, when invited. Through the age-old tradition of storytelling and drama, we bring to life, the wealth of biblical truth and teaching to school children aged 5-11.

Open the Book have a structured 3-year curriculum of 20 minute presentations, sourced from the bible, giving the children an insight into the christian faith. Familiar stories like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, Noah’s ark, Jonah and the whale from the Old Testament, and of Jesus’ birth, ministry and the Easter story of his death and resurrection, from the New Testament.

Our team in Rudgwick is drawn from members of both churches in Rudgwick village. In various ways we’ve enjoyed telling stories to our own children, or grandchildren and know what delight it is to share moments together exploring the imagery of places and characters far away. To lift the words off the pages of the bible in a school assembly is a real privilege. As various volunteers came forward we were each invited to watch Cranleigh’s Open the Book team ‘in action’ in 1 of the 3 primary schools’ assemblies the Cranleigh team lead. They gave us confidence to get up and started at the beginning of 2020. Through the kind skill of a few local competent knitters and sewers, we’ve gathered together a wardrobe of costumes and dug out, borrowed or made props that can disguise any one of us and transport the children to biblical times. At each assembly, several children eagerly assist us by taking small cameo parts which is very popular.

Sadly our attendance at Rudgwick Primary and Pennthorpe school was brought to an abrupt pause when Lockdown began only a few weeks after we’d started. While we wait for things to improve, we’ve wasted no time. During the summer months, we filmed five stories that Jesus told in the gospels. Jesus was an amazing storyteller, holding thousands captive as he spoke. He used stories known as parables throughout his ministry, stories with a spiritual dimension.

We filmed outside ‘on location’ locally making use of a friend’s garden and an open-sided barn to concur with COVID restrictions. It really took our teams’ talents to a new level. As many an actor will tell you, drama on stage is one thing but filming is quite a different matter! Our vicar, offered his film editing skills to finalise the stories on video for both schools to use throughout the term. We’ve had such fun working together in this way – especially with the inevitable out takes!

In August, the children of Holy Trinity church, Rudgwick, had a sneak preview of these stories each Sunday. One young dad relayed that his daughter had really engaged in the narrative. So much so that when they recently visited Canterbury cathedral, she recognised a couple of the parables, depicted in stained glass windows there.

We look forward to the Primary and Pennthorpe children’s feedback in due course this term. We hope they will be intrigued to read the stories for themselves and absorb the wisdom and truths within them.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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