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Guidebook for the Good Book

City minister's literary biblical tour offers background and encourages readers to dig deeper

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United Church Rev. Michael Wilson publishes guided tour of the Bible.

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United Church Rev. Michael Wilson publishes guided tour of the Bible. Photo Store

This summer, consider travelling with a local minister who knows his way around some significant stops in sacred scripture.

Inspired by a guided tour of San Francisco he took in 2013, Rev. Michael Wilson came back to his hometown determined to teach Christian scripture in an accessible way.

Fast-forward one year, and the minister of Charleswood United Church has already led three tours of the Bible within his congregation, and sold more than 200 copies of his self-published A Guided Tour of the Bible in 25 Stops.

"I think it says the Bible is still very relevant for people who come to church," says Wilson, 51, of the interest in his recently released book.

"But it comes across as something imposing, inaccessible, so they don't have confidence in their reading of it. So a little bit of background is helpful."

Wilson makes no apologies for the fact his 25 stops represent only the highlights of the two testaments, 66 books and 31,173 verses that make up the Christian Bible. It begins with the creation story in Genesis, picks up the stories of Abraham, Moses and David along the way, and makes significant stops in the Jesus narrative.

All along this whistle-stop tour, Wilson's purpose remains the same: to introduce the major themes of love of God and neighbour, and encourage his readers to dig a little deeper.

"So you find something in there you find interesting or intriguing and you go back there and read the bigger story," he says of how he hopes readers will use his book.

After 25 years in the pulpit -- with the last two decades in the Roblin Boulevard church -- Wilson has noticed parishioners are less familiar with the great stories of the Bible.

"I used to be able to rely on biblical references (in my sermons) but now I have to identify what those references are," he says.

That decrease in biblical literacy isn't unique to the United Church, says a biblical studies professor at Canadian Mennonite University, located just a few kilometres east of Wilson's church.

Sheila Klassen-Wiebe says many students in her introductory biblical courses don't know the basics such as the names of the books of the Bible or recognize parables such as the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son.

"They have no sense of the overarching story and the overall cohesiveness" of the Bible, says Klassen-Wiebe, who has taught at the Tuxedo campus for 21 years.

Church member Carol Queen liked Wilson's study tour so much that she took it twice last winter.

"This really helped me read the scriptures on my own. It's a guide for me to think about when I read (the Bible), instead of just reading it and feeling confused," says Queen, a member of Charleswood United for nearly four decades.

"It reinforced things I believe in and it brought new insight to the stories," adds fellow church member Sheenagh Campbell, who bought three copies of the $15 book to share with family members.

"I think it would be a wonderful introduction to someone searching the Christian faith."

Wilson acknowledges his 107-page book is not a scholarly work, but he's pleased people are finding it a helpful navigational tool.

"The same material was offered for free (at Bible study) but it costs you 10 hours," says Wilson. "I put it in a different format and even though it is $15, it's reaching more people."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2014 D15

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