An Interview with… Peter Shields
Posted by Gary O’Rourke, 06 February 2020
An interview with… Peter Shields, Independent Contractor with Biblica
Biblica: Peter, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Nigeria to missionary parents, I am married to Diane, a teacher, and we have 3 grown up children – two are married and living in Northern Ireland, and the other is currently in Australia.
I have been going to Orangefield Presbyterian in East Belfast for nearly 20 years. In Orangefield I have been involved in youth work and leading the men’s fellowship. More recently, over the past 10 years, the concept of Bible engagement has become very significant to me and I now help facilitate Community Bible Experience in Orangefield – getting people together and encouraging them to read the Bible in community.
Outside of church life, I run a software company in the centre of Belfast but at the age of 57 I am planning for the next stage of life, and part of that has been dropping to a 4 day week to get involved in a number of my other passions.
Biblica: Before we talk about the project you are working on for Biblica, tell us a bit about your experience of CBE (Community Bible Experience)
About 8 or 9 years ago a friend gave me a CBE book and suggested I should have a look at it. I didn’t! But about a year later Stephen Cave came to Orangefield to introduce CBE. About 400 people at that time took the CBE New Testament, though not everyone was committed to meeting regularly. In parallel to that a group of men, all around the age of 50, were looking for something to do together, and we agreed to form a CBE reading group. That group still meets every week in a local cafe, and the Biblica CBE material has deepened each of our faith journeys. We have read completely through the Bible maybe 6 or 7 times now.
Last year we carried out an audit in Orangefield and there were almost 100 people who were regularly meeting together over food, reading the Bible in small groups, and discussing what they had read. Many of those groups continue, others are taking a break having completed the whole Bible. In some ways, I believe it has been transformational for our church. Different groups meeting at different times and locations has been significant for many in their faith journeys. I believe that unless the Bible is underpinning what we are trying to do as a group of believers, we very quickly lose touch with “why” we are trying to do it.
A key moment from my own CBE readings was when we came across the temple being rebuilt during King Josiah’s reign, and the priest found the Books of the Law. And I thought, how could the people of Judah have lost something so precious to them as the scriptures? How was that possible? But it makes me think about the modern equivalent of that and how we so easily neglect the Bible. That has been a real motivation for me to encourage others into a deeper Bible engagement. Within the CBE groups we encourage everyone not to answer other people’s questions – yes, we can point things out but each us need to take more responsibility for what we accept as truth and are prepared to believe.
Biblica: How have you got involved in the work of Biblica?
Through CBE I became interested in the work of Biblica, and I was pretty much willing to do anything to support the work they are involved with. I wasn’t sure how it might end but a conversation started about 2 or 3 years ago and coming out of that was an opportunity that was more than I could imagine as it combined several things I have become very passionate about.
Around the same time, my wife and I were developing a heart for working with refugees in Athens. A girl from our church had spent the summer in Athens, and she shared some of her experiences when she returned. We were hugely challenged about getting involved, and as a result we have spent the last 3 years, at various points, working with refugee groups in Athens. I have also been trying to do some social–enterprise or enterprise–development work out there with a couple of charities help their refugees into employment.
To read more about the project Peter is involved in click here