Many retirees plan to spend their newfound leisure time golfing or gardening. But for Maureen and Kevin Crawford, an encounter with The Saint John’s Bible sparked inspiration for some very different plans. The couple has undertaken a unique project to share the Heritage Edition with clergy members and other friends through a hospitality ministry in Santa Fe.
Awestruck by “Illuminating the Word”
Prior to her retirement, Maureen’s career was spent as an at-home mom, writer, and English professor. She also served as Director of Adult Faith Formation and Dean of the Iona School at the Diocese of Olympia in Washington state. Meanwhile, Kevin spent 35 years with the Boeing Company, where he retired as a vice president.
It was Maureen’s role in ministry that brought the family into contact with the Heritage Edition, but they actually first encountered The Saint John’s Bible in 2006. On a family trip to Washington, D.C., the Crawfords saw the “Illuminating the Word” exhibition at the Library of Congress.
“We were just fascinated—awestruck,” recalls Maureen. “We spent hours and hours going through the entire exhibit. We kind of joked-slash-dreamed about, ‘Wow, imagine if we could ever own that.’ And it also gave us an opportunity to talk to our children about the intersection of art, science, theology, religion and belief.”
More than 10 years later, Maureen was staffing a booth at a convention hosted by the Diocese of Olympia. Her neighbor on the convention floor was Brad Neary, director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program, who was showcasing the Heritage Edition in his booth.
“Brad and I just spent hours chitchatting that day,” says Maureen. “I found out that a lot of the things I felt about The Saint John’s Bible, he also had felt or experienced. I could just hardly sleep that first night. All of these ministries surrounding The Saint John’s Bible were just swirling in my head.
“I tentatively asked Brad how much they were the next day. When he told me, I remember saying something like, ‘Well, all our kids are out of college. If we’d had a fourth child, that’s just another four years of college,” Maureen recalls.
But of course, acquiring the Heritage Edition was not a casual decision for the couple. “I had to spend some time thinking and praying about whether this was just something I wanted as an acquisition or whether I really was being called to the ministry,” Maureen states. “And I just kept getting more and more ideas as time went on.”
Kevin was excited by the prospect as well. He connected the work with his fondness for Sister Wendy Beckett, the host of several popular television series exploring art that aired on the BBC and PBS.
“She also bridged science and culture and made those connections when discussing masterpieces,” says Kevin, who loved seeing science represented so often in The Saint John’s Bible illuminations.
A Hospitality Ministry Takes Shape
After more discussions with Neary, the Crawfords made the decision to acquire a Heritage Edition so that they could share the Bible with others. The timing coincided with their decision to relocate to New Mexico, where Kevin was originally from, and the home the couple purchased in Santa Fe ended up becoming an important part of their use of the Heritage Edition.
“We found this house and it was kind of like the Bible—I couldn’t sleep at night,” Maureen recalls. “I had all these images of ministries and having the Bible here in this house. Having a hospitality ministry just really spoke to both of us.”
The house and grounds are well suited for rest and relaxation, with a guest wing and five acres that include an Anglican prayer garden. The Crawfords intend to add a chapel as well. Their eventual goal is to create a space dedicated to clergy members.
“In talking to our friends who are clergy, it just really became obvious to me that we could provide a free place to stay for R&R and a mini-sabbatical, or to have a retreat with a other clergy members,” she says. “That was something we wanted to offer and the Bible just fits in completely with that.”
While COVID has put a damper on the couple’s timeline for inviting guests, their experiences sharing the Heritage Edition thus far have been rewarding. Kevin’s mother and her friend, both in their 80s, stayed with the couple for several months over lockdown and Maureen observed that the illuminations provided an easy jumping-off point for discussion.
Having worked in Faith Formation, Maureen recalls how intimidated many people are by Bible studies, often saying, “Oh, no, I don’t know enough about the Bible,” when invited. “What I think The Saint John’s Bible allows you to do is enter an image and become part of the story. What you think you don’t know about the Bible doesn’t hinder you” Maureen says.
Artistically-trained family members were impressed as well. “My younger brother went to Parsons School of Design and he’s a graphic artist,” says Kevin. “He looked at the Bible and he was in awe of the production. He commented several times, ‘How did they do that?’ Just the amount of human creativity that was put into the creation of the Bible—I think it’s a great story.”
Passing on Their Blessings
While the couple’s ministry is still in “soft launch” phase, Maureen is planning for the future and undeterred by the duties of being a shepherd of the Heritage Edition.
“I don’t feel like I’m on my own,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who gets energized by planning things and creating programs. So this uses my gifts, as well as being something I really enjoy doing.”
Kevin agrees, and is excited about the next phase ahead. “This is a good way for us to pass on the blessings we’ve had in our life,” he concludes.