The Accessible Bible Project – Urban Devotion
Posted by Gary O’Rourke, 21 September 2020
We heard about Urban Devotion through Pete Winmill – a good friend of Biblica at Count Everyone In. Pete’s son, Andy, is involved with Urban Devotion in Birmingham and we recently supplied him with some copies of the NIrV Accessible Bible: New Testament.
Urban Devotion was established in 2003 on a housing estate in North Birmingham. Its ministry is among areas which are the most statistically disadvantaged in the UK. It exists to see the transformation of communities one life at a time, working with a range of organisations across Birmingham – from community associations to schools, from food social enterprises to churches.
Biblica: Andy, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Andy: I do not remember not ‘knowing’ God, but I made a clear choice to follow Him when I was 3 years old and, 35 years on, I am still making that lifechanging choice on a daily basis. I live in Birmingham with my amazing wife, Emma, our 3 incredible children – Eden, Eliza and Zoe – and our dog, Beans.
I first moved to Birmingham as a student, and Emma and I began volunteering with Urban Devotion Birmingham (UDB) in the last year of my degree.
The New Testaments are great because they are designed for people who might find reading a challenge, but the layout and general feel is credible and non–patronising
Biblica: What is your role with Urban Devotion?
Andy: It is funny to admit now but I never anticipated working for UDB. We felt God call us to move into the local area and commit our lives to praying and being part of the community and expected to do this alongside a ‘normal’ job. God had other plans and once I graduated, I ended up splitting my time between working for UDB and developing a missional training school through a local Vineyard church. Two years in I knew I needed to devote all the time I had to UDB, so I stepped away from my other role.
I now have the privilege of leading the charity. Much of this role involves stepping back and making sure that the conditions are in place for our phenomenal team to do what they do best.
One of the projects we love being part of is Safe Spaces. This is a collaboration of Christian youth workers who are passionate about seeing every young person in Birmingham have a space where they can be safe and accepted. We believe the church is ideally placed to step up to the plate, but we also support other groups that share our aims.
Biblica: When did you first become aware of the work of Biblica?
Andy: My mum and dad run a project called Count Everyone In. They help churches nurture and disciple adults with learning disabilities. They have worked with Biblica to help develop the Accessible Bible. If my dad is particularly passionate about something, then it is impossible not to hear about it! He duly showed me the bibles and I was really impressed.
Andy: The New Testaments are great because they are designed for people who might find reading a challenge, but the layout and general feel is credible and non–patronising. We are transparent about our faith and love having conversations about Jesus. Sometimes young people express a greater degree of interest but rarely have a bible to explore things further. We will give the New Testaments and Gospels away to spark further conversation. We also run prayer activities with local schools where they will be an invaluable resource.
Biblica: Why would you recommend other organisations should get copies of the Accessible New Testaments?
Andy: These bibles are incredibly versatile so well worth having a stock of. I’ve got lots of different bibles that I use for different purposes, but the NIrV Accessible Bible is a bible for anyone – or even a bible for everyone. I could a copy to a parent, to a young person and so I would recommend them as the ideal shelf filler for any organization passionate about sharing Jesus with others.
Biblica: Can you share something of how you have seen God’s word having an impact?
Andy: Over the years I have loved seeing young people encounter the bible for the first time and just taking it as they come. A few years back we saw several young people connect with God around the same time and they were fascinated by stories of healing. They took those stories at face value, they prayed for friends and family members and they saw people get well.
Biblica: what are your plans for coming out of lockdown?
Andy: Our vision and our values have remained undimmed throughout lockdown; we have just found different ways to express them. The same is true now. How can we connect with local young people? How can we build relationships? How can we help them see their immeasurable worth? How can we support them in realising their potential? There are fresh challenges – a surge in mental health needs, a rapid rise in unemployment – but those questions will guide us. Amidst the pain and distress that Covid–19 and lockdown have prompted we always look for hope and ask how we can point to the ultimate hope that we find in Jesus.
Biblica: How can people be praying for you and the work you are involved in?
Andy: I would love you to pray for young people in our area. Unemployment is already up by nearly 60% since before lockdown and young people are facing an uncertain future. Many are worried about returning to school, some are wounded by the exam results fiasco, others are experiencing poor mental health. We have never been about big shiny programmes, but relationships so please pray for our team as we draw alongside children and young people in the months ahead. We would also love your prayers for wisdom as we navigate the tricky financial landscape and seek to make a difference for the long term.