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Sharing The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition During Lenten Season Sparks Conversations

Lent invites us to approach the familiar with new eyes. For St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition has been – and continues to be – a powerful tool to facilitate this invitation and ignite the spiritual imagination.

Posted February 20, 2024 in Religious Institutions
One heritage edition of The Saint John's Bible lays open on display

On February 14, many communities of faith began the season of Lent – 40 days dedicated to preparing for Easter Sunday, which will occur on Sunday, March 31, 2024. 

In one such circumstance, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Lent offers a unique opportunity to share The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition not only within their parish – but with a broader community.   

“From the moment we received The Saint John’s Bible into our parish,” said Linda Page, a St. Michael’s docent, “Matt (Rev. Matt Holcombe, rector of St. Michael’s), wanted to include the wider community in experiencing The Saint John’s Bible.” 

St. Michael’s welcomed one volume of the Heritage Edition into its own midst in February 2023, and were gifted a full seven-volume set in the fall of the same year. Since, the parish has used The Saint John’s Bible as an opportunity toreach out into the local community and share the Heritage Edition with different groups of people.  

“We met with 62 groups in just the past year,” said Page. “I feel that’s really significant in just 12 months. And we plan to continue. We feel it’s important to share The Saint John’s Biblebeyond the walls of our church.” 

For example, St. Michael’s has brought The Saint John’s Bible to nearby libraries and galleries, and even, a nearby correctional facility. The parish also shared their Heritage Edition with other Episcopal parishes during the annual Colorado Diocesan Convention. A local financial planning firm also arranged a time to experience The Saint John’s BibleHeritage Edition at St. Michael’s.  

“We’ve brought the Heritage Edition to local book clubs, to neighborhood supper clubs, to nursing care facilities, the local calligraphers’ guild and more,” said Page. “We’ve had a number of Jewish relatives experience The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Editionat St. Michael’s and they’re astonished when they see the Hebrew in what they would call the Christian Bible. Their reaction sparks conversations that lead to something bigger than we can imagine.” 

“There’s so much that we have in common around the Bible that people don’t think about – stories that we have known since childhood, for example. I think people are surprised by that.” 

Docents Serve as Guides 

To facilitate the process, the parish has created a team of 30 docents. These are members of the St. Michael’s faith community who have been trained to present The Saint John’s Bible to those who are interested. Think of these people as visitor guides – like those who might give you a tour of a museum or a place of special interest, such as a park or a monument.  

The community initially received one volume, Gospels and Acts, for a temporary ‘Season’ of two months, but through the generosity of a couple who are members of the community, St. Michael’s has now been gifted all seven volumes of The Saint John’s BibleHeritage Edition; its set is one of only 299 limited edtion sets of which over 170 sets have been acquired.Over the course of the past year, the team has been meeting regularly to learn about each book and to discuss how the team members present each volume to groups outside of the St. Michael’s community. 

For example, in March, the team is planning “An Afternoon with The Saint John’s Bible.” The docent team will have three of the seven volumes open and available to the public. The docents will be available to share their knowledge of each volume with those who want to learn more about The Saint John’s Bible as well as for those who want their Lenten journey to include these incredible works of Scripture and art.  

Lenten Journey 

In addition to sharing The Saint John’s Bible with the larger community, St. Michael’s is making their Heritage Edition a core part of their Lenten journey within the community.  

“Each and every Sunday during Lent, and also for special liturgies, such as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day, we read from the Gospels & Acts volume and that allows us as a community to experience this Bible in a communal setting,” said Holcombe.  

Photo: Docent Linda Page (right) and others from St. Michael’s experience the Heritage Edition communally.
Photo: Docent Linda Page (right) and others from St. Michael’s experience the Heritage Edition communally.

To enrich the experience, a parish member created a special, hand-made revolving lectern that cradles one volume of The Saint John’s Bible during a service or afterward. 

“We affectionately call it the “Rambo,” said Holcombe. “Short for Revolving Ambo. Our deacon can proclaim the Gospel to the congregation and then turn the lectern 180-degrees for the rest of the service so the congregation can experience The Saint John’s Bible.” 

“And, based on where the Bible is situated, during communion, our members have to walk by it in order to get to the altar rail to receive communion,” he added. “That proximity to the Word of God is significant, theologically.” 

Holcombe notes that in the Episcopal tradition, priests and deacons often refer to the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. “Having The Saint John’s Bible at St. Michael’s during Lent allows us to lean into Scripture in a way that we’ve never been able to before as a community.” 

Good Friday 

On Good Friday, St. Michael’s will use The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition in another way. First, it invited the community to have sacred time with The Saint John’s Bible, as members of the parish read from it continuously, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. These readings are open to the public.  

“Our mission for the past several years has been to make Christ known within and beyond our walls and using The Saint John’s Bible to help us live into our mission,” said Holcombe. 

“Lent invites us as Christians to approach the familiar in new ways,” Holcome added, “That’s exactly what The Saint John’s Bible does. It’s familiar, we’ve heard these stories growing up, and for some, it’s the first time they’re hearing these stories of Jesus’ life but with the illuminations in The Saint John’s Bible. The time that went into creating this illuminated Bible – it mirrors the same invitation as Lent, to approach the familiar with new eyes, with a new experience or understanding of how God’s word can inspire people who are hungry for something different.” 

What’s amazing to both Holcombe and Page is the ability of The Saint John’s Bible to help a person – even a person, such as a docent, who has become very familiar with each volume in the Heritage set – see or experience something new. This experience is made even more powerful when done in community. 

An Invitation, 365 Days a Year 

St. Michael’s has learned that The Saint John’s Bible offers a unique invitation for both its members and visitors. That’s why they’ve made the decision to put all seven volumes on display every day – 365 days of the year. For the parish, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is an invitation to enter into conversation with one another.  

“When you walk into our church, the first thing you see are all seven volumes greeting you,” said Holcombe.  

“Last night, we had our annual Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday pancake supper,” added Page. “There were a number of people who were guests of our parishioners. As I was getting ready to head out the door, I saw a number of people standing by the cases where we display all seven volumes. I asked if I could answer any questions for them and it turned into a 20- minute conversation.” 

“It doesn’t take much for people to see it and just want to know more,” said Page, who noted that it was Holcombe’s idea to put The Saint John’s Bible – all seven volumes – in a prominent spot to encourage engagement from both members and guests. 

A Gift for Generations to Come

From St. Michael’s in Colorado Springs to Washington National Cathedral to Lambeth Palace Library The Saint John’s Bible is a gift that was created not to sit idly in a library, but to inspire and bring hope to a chaotic world. That was the intent when the monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, commissioned the creation of The Saint John’s Bible – the first hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible in more than 500 years.  

 The Heritage Edition at St. Michael’s is a special gift in that it is dedicated in the memory of The Reverend Melissa Kean.  

 “Melissa grew up at St. Michael’s from an early age,” said Holcombe, “So it was a fitting tribute to her work in the parish and her impact on the world and in our community, that this gift to St. Michael’s was made. While this gift was offered in her memory, the reality is, this is a gift for generations to come. In just the year that we’ve had it, you can see the impact it is having. You can see the lives it is touching.”  

“Our community has embraced that – this Bible is not just for us. It’s a gift for those yet to come. So, for today, we are focused on how we can be good stewards of this gift – in caring for it and sharing it with those beyond our walls.” 

As Page and Holcombe explain, there is no shortage of ideas that have emerged in how to share their Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible. It doesn’t matter if 350 people show up for an event that features The Saint John’s Bible or if just three show up. 

“Jesus never said, ‘Count my sheep.’ Instead, Jesus invites us to feed his sheep. And that is the question we seek to answer, ‘How can we, as a community who has this amazing gift of The Saint John’s Bible, feed others?’” said Holcombe. 

You’re Invited 

If you find yourself in Colorado Springs, Colorado, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church invites you to visit and experience The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition. To learn more, visit 

Learn More: Bring a Heritage Edition to Your Community 

To learn more about how your faith community can start to experience The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition, contact Brad Neary at bneary@csbsju.eduor at 612-810-9344.