The Upper Room writing competition winners of 2017

The Upper Room writing competition winners of 2017

Following the launch of this year's Upper Room writing competition, we decided to catch up with the winners of the 2017 competition, Sue Richards and David Butterfield.

Sue RichardsSue Richards won The Upper Room writing competition in 2017 and her reflection was published in the Sept-Dec 2018 issue. Sue lives in Newport Pagnell with her husband who is disabled and her son who has Asperger's. She teaches Functional Skills English to adults and serves as a deacon in her church. In her ‘spare’ time she leads Milton Keynes Torch Fellowship for visually impaired people, does ‘various jobs’ for the Elections department and is an invigilator at a local secondary school.

She found out about the competition through the Association of Christian Writers, of which she is a member. Why did she decide to enter?
‘Because I love writing, particularly about my faith, and I welcome any opportunity to do so. I write all the time! I enjoy writing poetry, short stories, reflections, word games, biographical items ... I believe that God wants to use my writing - in fact he has done so in a number of ways over the years. This is possibly confirmation of the direction he would like me to go in. I would love to write more, if I had the time, and believe I have some helpful stuff to say about faith, disability, disappointment, depression etc based on my own family experiences, and using humour.’

Have new writing opportunities opened up as a result of your success in the last competition?
‘Yes, as a direct result I have twice been asked to write a series of reflections for another BRF publication: Bible Reflections for Older People.’

Do you have any advice for people thinking of entering this time?
‘Make it as personal as possible, try to say something new and perhaps choose a verse that is less well-known.’

Is there a particular benefit in daily Bible reading in these strange times?
‘I'm sure there is immense benefit to be had from daily Bible reading in these times. We are promised that God will never forsake us, and although we may have been utterly shaken, devastated and confused by the pandemic, we have also surely seen God at work in so many amazing ways. It is so good to read his word and know that it is just as relevant to us today.’

David ButterfieldDavid Butterfield was runner-up in The Upper Room writing competition in 2017 and his reflection was published in the Sept-Dec 2018 issue. He lives in Ripon with his wife Irene. After studying music, David felt the call to ordination in the Church of England. During his 40-year ministry he served at churches in Southport, the Midlands and Shropshire. His final post was based at York Minster, from which he retired in 2017. As well as writing, he enjoys walking, with Irene, cycling, to keep fit, playing the piano and organ, reading and making marmalade.

David found out about the competition in The Church Times. An experienced writer of some 1,200 sermons and talks, along with magazine articles and reflections for Advent and Lent, why did he decide to enter?
‘I think the place of the Scriptures in our Christian lives is key. I also believe that the practice of reading the Bible every day is foundational for Christian disciples. The Hebrew Scriptures were clearly of fundamental importance to Jesus as he often quoted them and said to his hearers on a number of occasions, ‘Have you not read?’. So I endeavour to support organisations that promote the Scriptures, and your organisation, in producing daily reading notes, is clearly doing this in a very significant way.’

How did you decide what you would write about?
‘It was quite a difficult decision to make. However there are two verses of Scripture that have had a special place in my spiritual journey. One is Luke 6:38, about the importance of Christian generosity and how we can never out-give God. The other is Ephesians 1:18. This prayer of Paul for spiritual revelation is vital if people are to find Christ and, having found him, to continue to grow spiritually.’

As a result of his success in the competition, David has gone on to write regularly for Bible Reflections for Older People.

‘An irony for me in writing is that, when I was at school and university, I was hopeless at English. I failed my English ‘O’ level first time and scraped a pass the second time. When I was at university, a couple of lecturers would write on my essays things like, ‘You really do need to improve your English’. (They didn't tell me how!) However, working with words for over forty years, coupled with reading a lot more than I did when I was young, has led to me being quite pedantic about English and, if I might say so, being able to write quite well these days and sensitively.’

Do you have any advice for people thinking of entering this time?
‘Have a go! Choose a text that has inspired you. Make one point. Use good illustrations, ideally from your own life. When writing something it's always good to be able sleep on it and come at it afresh the next day, even if we think we have finished it. It's also good to let others read it and receive their feedback seriously.’

Is there a particular benefit in daily Bible readings in these strange times?
‘In these strange times, I think we need faith and hope that God has a future for us, and the wisdom to learn any lessons God might want to teach us through it all. We also need the wisdom to know what we might do differently in the future. Continuing to read God's Word daily gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to speak into our lives through God's Word. If we don't read it, we deprive ourselves of such opportunities.’

If you love to write, we'd love to hear from you! Learn more about The Upper Room writing competition here.

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