Saturday, 9 December 2017

Unaccustomed as I am... by Ros Bayes

Sometimes I do a workshop in churches, looking at which types of writing can be used in worship. A list? A factual report? A story? A play? A poem with rhyme and metre? Free verse?

Then I go on to look at how, in fact, all of these have been used to assist worship in the Bible. Romans 16 is principally a list which Paul probably used as an aide-memoire to prayer.

Factual reports in the Bible still inspire our worship thousands of years after they were written – 2 Kings 7 is one of my personal favourites in which disabled people contribute to the life and health of God’s people. It’s a powerful metaphor for the kind of Church Jesus longed for in Luke 14. 21-23 which is not full unless disabled people are fully included.

Jesus, of course, was the master storyteller, and the Gospels are full of his tales. He took homely, familiar things and made them reflections of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There may not be an example of an actual stage play in the Bible, but look at the story recounted to David by Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. It’s packed with drama and tension, with a punchline that took the wind right out of David’s sails and plunged him into deep repentance. It would make a brilliant stage play or film.

Rhyme and metre were not the literary devices of the Hebrew writers, but they still used sophisticated poetic devices such as acrostic poems and parallelism. And some passages in the prophets are deeply poetic but written in a much freer form.

Having looked at all these examples, I then encourage the participants to express their own worship to God through one of these literary media. The beauty of it is that whether someone feels like trying their hand at a detailed story or a Petrarchan sonnet, or whether all they feel they can manage is a list, there is a form that can give expression to their deepest prayers and worship, and which has a good Biblical precedent.

There is one form, however, at which I had never tried my hand until recently, and that is the wedding speech. Being my daughter’s only surviving parent, it fell to me to walk her down the aisle, give her away and make a speech at the reception. I felt very privileged to do something few mums get to do.

I started on a light-hearted note (I had struck a similar deal with my son-in-law to the one Laban struck with Jacob: just as Jacob, if he wanted to marry Rachel, had to have Leah as well, so my son-in-law, if he wanted to marry my daughter, would also have to take her cat off my hands). Then I outlined some of the difficulties my daughter had overcome and the achievements she had accomplished, and listed the many reasons I was proud of her, ending with the fact that I was proud of her choice of husband. I mentioned also some of the obstacles he, too has overcome in life (both of them have been bereaved of a parent at a young age) and the great things he has, notwithstanding, accomplished. And I concluded with some spiritual encouragement for them.

I hope that was the right kind of shape for a wedding speech – at least it forced them to sit and listen to me spelling out my pride and love for them in ways I wouldn’t often get an opportunity to do.

And it strikes me, in this Advent season, that in a way the whole of Scripture could be seen as God the Father’s wedding speech, as we anticipate His Son returning to be eternally united with us, His waiting bride.

Ros Bayes has 10 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof ( as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at and her author page at Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting.

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