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Thousands contribute to handwritten Bible

By Alf McCreary

A handwritten Bible involving the work of 10,500 people in Northern Ireland over 13 months is on display today at the Bible Society headquarters in Belfast.

The historic 19-volume project was completed earlier this year when the Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Harper wrote in three verses from Psalm 150.

He did so near the spot where previous church leaders including Archbishop Sean Brady and Archbishop Robin Eames made their contributions.

Earlier this year the outgoing Presbyterian Moderator Dr David Clarke and the former Methodist President the Rev Ivan McElhinney also contributed in their own handwriting.

The contributions have come from Protestant and Catholic churches and schools all over Northern Ireland.

John Doherty, the general secretary of the Bible Society in Northern Ireland, told the Belfast Telegraph today: " Nearly 200 different schools and churches took part, so it was like trying to complete a giant jigsaw.

"The final words were written from Psalm 150 because the last chapters in the Book of Revelation had already been completed by the congregation of Downshire Road Presbyterian Church at their harvest supper in Newry.

"At any one time there were up to 20 different schools or churches writing their contributions simultaneously."

Mr Doherty said: "If any church or group wishes to compile their version of one of the Gospels for their own use we will help them as best we can."

The first contribution to the 19-volume Bible came from Pomeroy Presbyterian Church in April 2006, and a similar project has been taking place throughout the Irish Republic.

John Doherty said: "This is a parallel exercise and they are not yet finished, however, they are now well on their way."

He said the purpose of the project was two-fold.

"It was to remind people how the Bible has survived down the ages, from the earlier handwritten versions, and it was to help them to read the Scriptures in a new way.

"When you copy a portion of the Bible by hand, you get a greater understanding, and people told us many times 'I never knew that the Bible said this'.

"Each contributor received a signed certificate, and the names of all the contributors are held in a computer.

The completed Bible will be on display in St Anne's Cathedral Belfast where the Bible Society is holding its bicentenary service on Friday, October 12.

Volumes of the handwritten Bible will be available to each contributing church or school.

Mr Doherty said: "They have been beautifully bound by RMB Bookbinders in Belfast and it is almost like a modern Book of Kells."

Belfast Telegraph

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