Saturday, 28 November 2015

Being Given Research on a Plate by Rosemary Johnson

When I retired from teaching this September, I had grand ideas, of writing The Novel and having stories published in women’s magazines. Also wanting to use my more abundant time to serve God and to support my local church, I enrolled on the Course in Christian Studies (CCS) offered by Chelmsford Diocese.

Although recommended for those considering lay ministry or ordination, most people join CCS for the personal satisfaction of understanding their Christian faith better. Many just have a gut feeling that it’s the right thing to do. A two year long course, CCS covers the Bible, church history, Christian ethics and how to apply your Christian faith in the world. Although run from Chelmsford (Anglican) Diocese, it is open to Christians of all denominations. Similar theological foundation courses are available in several other dioceses, although CCS itself is only available in Essex.

Our group is more than twenty strong, with few drop-outs, even after nine weeks. I admit that, being a shy person, I’ve found the group size a challenge, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable. We start, and end, each session with worship, and, mostly, we discuss Bible passages we’ve ‘prepared earlier’ and hear tutor inputs, which are always interesting. However, a few weeks ago I found myself storytelling Jonah and the Whale, using my writerly skills – and my classroom experience – to make Jonah into a mardy teenager. Bob Hartman (guest speaker at October ACW Writers Day) would’ve been proud of me.

I’m sure CCS will make me a more confident evangelist. Much of what we’ve learned so far, particularly insights from my fellow CCS students, is adding layers of meaning to my understanding of well-known Bible stories, but it’s hard work. To be honest, I don’t always want to turn out on a dark, rainy evening, or even to do my homework, which might involve reading six listed passages from Exodus and writing notes. After having struggled with a paid job that took over my every minute, I didn’t want this sort of commitment, but, hang on, it’s commitment to God we’re talking about here. Get your priorities right, girl.

Just in the last few days, I'm starting to see how my growing knowledge of the Bible might inform and direct my writing. As a history graduate, I love inhabiting the past by writing historical fiction and I thoroughly enjoy reading crime fiction, but don’t feel sufficiently confident to write about modern forensics and police procedures. I now have some ideas for writing historical crime, with an Old Testament prophet as a detective perhaps, and I'm being given my research on a plate.

This brings me on to the Best Stories Ever Told competition, the first comp I’ve initiated as ACW Competitions Manager. All you need to do is to write a Bible story like a modern short story and in 1000 words. Full details of this ACW members only competition will appear in the Autumn Edition of Christian Writer, which should burst through members’ letterboxes very soon. Competition deadline: 27 February 2016.


  1. Your course sounds great. It's interesting that you can see how it's enhancing your fiction writing too. Thanks for the heads-up re the competition. Might actually enter this time!

  2. Sounds like a great competition idea.

  3. Your course sounds fascinating! I think it's always a challenge to understand how our faith can influence our writing.

  4. Do enter the comp, Deborah and Fran... and everyone else.

    Incorporating our faith into our writing is always a challenge and this Bible Story comp is a great opportunity to do it in a very direct way. On the other hand, C F Dunn, who we all know as an ACW member and whose first book Mortal Fire I have just reviewed on my own blog Write On (, shows us how to incorporate faith in a more subtle way.