Gospel reading during Holy Week is a common tradition for many Christians, but for Epiphany Parish in Seattle, Washington, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition made the book of John resonate in new ways.
The volume is used in for Epiphany’s annual Good Friday gospel reading session to “deepen the experience of Holy Week,” said Discernment Leader Diana Bender. “Until we acquired the The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition (this is the second year we’ve used it in our Good Friday readings), readings had been conducted with a standard-sized Bible,” but using the Heritage Edition provided a “sense of presence” that couldn’t be matched, she said.
Epiphany acquired the Heritage Edition last year, some two years after participating in the A Year with The Saint John’s Bible program, and church leaders have been creating events and programming around it ever since.
As opposed to the typical tradition of study and reflection, Good Friday’s event – which saw parishioners gather to read aloud in the parish’s Fireside Room for six hours from late morning to mid-afternoon – fostered “more of an understanding on a gut level,” Bender said.
Generating New Experiences with a Familiar Story
“It wasn’t didactic,” The Rev. Doyt Conn said. “It was entirely experiential.” He described the event as “deeply prayerful and reverent” and said that the Heritage Edition made the experience fundamentally different from previous Holy Week readings: “With the Heritage Edition, it changes your relationship with the text.”
Another parishioner commented that the effect was “unexpected,” and that the signature calligraphy of The Saint John’s Bible led to a parallel experience to actually reading the words on the page – “like the script is the artwork,” they said.
Charissa Bradstreet, an Epiphany parishioner, got to read one of her favorite chapters on Good Friday morning: John 17, in which Jesus, facing crucifixion, offers prayers for Himself, the disciples around Him, and believers across the world.
“The gospel is usually taken in small bites,” she said. “To read the whole gospel is a new way to use it, to watch something unfold. It was meditative. You heard familiar things in fresh ways.”
In the spirit of Epiphany’s reading of the Gospel on Good Friday and the 7 Days – 7 Pages celebration Saint John’s launched during the Pope’s visit to America, celebratory page-turnings and readings — across communities around the world — will be coordinated by The Saint John’s Bible team beginning later this year. Not only can these celebrations bring communities together (as it has for Epiphany Parish and the Seattle area), they also unify viewers of The Saint John’s Bible in one meditative act of worship.
“The Saint John’s Bible is a precious resource for us,” Bender said. Conn added that the Heritage Edition “has a whole center of gravity. We didn’t talk about the Bible – we could use any Bible to do that. Instead, we got to see the words come to life.”