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Embodying the Living Word During COVID-19

By R.D. Le Claire

Pastor Michael Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio, started the  Canton Corona Bible Project. The project invites volunteers to work together to handwrite the entire bible as an artifact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malone University has accepted the responsibility to write out the book of Isaiah to contribute to the project. Malone’s Director of Spiritual Formation Linda Leon is the liaison for the school’s involvement.

“Our goal is to write out the words of the Bible, as an act of meditation and worship, in light of our questions and fears, but also our hope and trust as a testimony to this time of crisis,” the project’s website says.

 “The ultimate goal is less product [and more] journey … The intended purpose is to give individuals centered time to really engage in scripture, but also to slow down,” Wallace said. “I find especially in my own reading … so often I think ‘I know this’ and I can scan through it.

“Writing down the scriptures is so good. It’s a really good tactic to slow down and write it out. You really start to pick up more [and] you can meditate on it,” Wallace said. 

“It’s not just about a reproduction [of Scripture], it’s about enlivening or … bringing Scripture to life from our own perspective,” said Leon.

The idea of a handwritten bible as a pandemic artifact started in the St. Gallen Cathedral in Switzerland. The idea was duplicated in a presbyterian church in Nebraska. Wallace got the inspiration for this project from both of these organizations.

Upon accepting the offer to join the Canton Corona Bible Project, Leon first reached out to Malone’s English and visual arts departments, then to faculty, staff and students at large to recruit volunteers to reach Malone’s goal. The response has been immense, with chapters being reserved quicker than Leon thought they would be.

Leon plans to finish up any chapters that are left behind, but has reserved at least one for herself in case there are none.

Malone is one organization that has taken on an entire book to handwrite, but other books of the Bible have been claimed by organizations such as Walsh University. Individuals can sign up to write out chapters of the New Testament, and organizations can contact Wallace to reserve a book to handwrite. 

Individuals and volunteers within participating organizations follow a standardized yet customizable template in which they write out the chapter they have selected. It can be viewed on the website listed at the end of this article.

At the end of the chapter that a participant has handwritten, there is a place for the participant to put their name and some biographical information. This serves to highlight the spirit of togetherness that the project is designed to provide.

Some participants are creating illuminated manuscripts — manuscripts with drawings in the text or in the margins — and some are writing in plain text. The template states that pages are to be the standard eight-and-one-half inches wide by 11 inches long sheets of paper.

The Everett L. Cattell  Library on campus has a copy of the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition manuscript on display, which is a large, handwritten, illuminated Bible. Some participants in the Canton Corona Bible Project have gotten inspiration from viewing this Bible on display.

So far, some chapters have been written with pencils, calligraphy pens and even crayons. The project guidelines state that chapters can be written in any language and with any writing implement. Even more off-beat creations are welcome, according to Wallace.

“If someone has taken the time to translate or find a translation of the scriptures in Elvish or Klingon, they’re still following the philosophy and the intent of the project,” Wallace said.

He would welcome chapters in fantasy languages, but doesn’t think that any will be written using this tactic.

This project is open to anyone, whether they claim Christianity or not. A local Jewish temple is embodying this, as they have signed on to contribute by handwriting part of the Old Testament.

The finished pages will be sent to Wallace to be scanned and put online. Participants in Malone’s re-creation of Isaiah will be collected by Leon, who will put them in order and send them to Wallace herself.

Those who want to participate in Malone’s contribution, whether they are a student, faculty or staff member, can contact Leon at lleon2@malone.edu. The final day for Malone’s Isaiah manuscript chapters to be turned in is March 14.

Individuals or groups wanting to take on other parts separate from Malone can go to the Canton Corona Bible Project website at cantoncpc.org/learn-grow/canton-corona-bible/ to sign up.

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