The Upper Room Writing Competition 2023



The Upper Room writing competition 2023-24

The Upper Room is a series of Bible reading notes published in 35 languages and read by an estimated three million people across the world every day. Known as the place ‘where the world meets to pray’, what makes The Upper Room unique is the fact that its readers are its writers. The three winning entries will be published in future issues of The Upper Room, and highly commended entries and special mentions will be considered for inclusion as part of the normal selection process. We are grateful to everyone who entered and send warm congratulations to the winners.

The winners!

BRF Ministries is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s competition to write a reflection suitable for publication in the UK edition of The Upper Room Bible reading notes.

The winner is Georgie Tennant, from Norfolk, for ‘Coming like children’, an arresting and original take on a favourite verse. The two equal runners-up are April McIntyre, from Derby, for ‘Trusting’ and Christine Woolgar, from Oxfordshire, for ‘Stay or go?’ Five entries were highly commended: Jane Haslam (‘True hospitality’), Alison Cross (‘Beauty for brokenness’), Helen Hewitt (‘Waiting for morning’), Lorna Clark (‘God’s jigsaw’) and Peter Edwards (‘Into the deep’). In addition, Angela Uberoi receives a special mention for ‘Rise up like eagles’.

High standards

The standard of entries was consistently high. Eley McAinsh, editor of Bible Reflections for Older People selected the long list and Olivia Warburton, head of content creation chose the winner and runners-up. After judging, Olivia commented:

‘What an impressive set of entries! As ever, it wasn’t easy to make the selection, but “Coming like children” rose to the top for me. Many reflections on this verse focus on the qualities of innocence and vulnerability, and how we should be “like a child” primarily in this sense. Georgie Tennant unpacks Jesus’ comparison more robustly, noting the less appealing – but authentic – aspects of childhood and how that can free us up in how we approach our heavenly Father.

‘Congratulations too to April McIntyre for “Trusting”, an insightful reflection on how building trust in God takes time, and to Christine Woolgar for “Stay or go?”, which reminds us that our understanding of scripture can change and deepen over time as we interact prayerfully and honestly with it.’

Winner - Georgie Tennant

Georgie Tennant is a part-time secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 15 and 13 who keep her exceptionally busy. When she isn’t at work, she loves writing and contributing to her local church, leading a small group and occasionally preaching. She has written eight books in a phonics series, published by BookLife and was a freelance writer for King’s Lynn Magazine for a while. She writes the ‘Thought for the week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog: Her first devotional book, The God Who Sees You, was published by Kevin Mayhew in March 2023.

Why did you enter the competition?

I LOVE writing devotional pieces, to share at church and for people to read. I am always so encouraged when people read what you have written and it resonates with them, encourages them and helps them to draw closer to God and deepen their faith.

What was it like to hear you’d won?

Very surreal – I had to pinch myself and re-read the email several times to check I hadn’t misread it. It was so encouraging to think my writing was considered a good enough standard to be included in such an amazing publication!

Any advice to other writers?

Write from the heart. Write what you feel is something YOU might need to hear, as you can be sure it will encourage someone going through a similar situation to you. Write everything and anything down – even if it isn't for right now, you will be able to use it at some point in the future.


Coming like children by Georgie Tennant

Anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Mark 10:15 (NLT)

If you search the internet for the scripture in today’s reading, you can find many artists’ impressions of the scene, depicting Jesus surrounded by angelic children, dressed in white, sitting still and smiling.

I must admit, my experiences of my own children when they were small were rarely like that! I have a photo of my son, aged two, screaming on my front doorstep because he didn’t want to stay outside but also refused to come in. One of the many impossible toddler-conundrums I faced as he grew.

The artists’ depictions of Jesus welcoming children make us imagine them as cute, snuggly and quiet. They’re not! They’re loud and messy. They cry when things aren’t right. But they’re also authentic, real, not fake or disingenuous. We learn these things as adults to hide our struggles.

So, when Jesus invites us to come to him like children, it’s okay to come as children really are – in all our messy, human complexity. We might need to come to him as a crying, roaring, snotty, stomping child if we need to, not a cute, cuddly, socially acceptable one. We might need to throw ourselves into His arms, laying pride and image aside. We might need to allow him to hold, comfort and heal us and replace our anxious thoughts with his and make us whole.

Prayer: Lord, help me to come to you like a child today. Amen.


Runner up: April McIntyre 

April McIntyre grew up on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent. She studied English Literature at the University of Sheffield and worked for a short time as a teacher before moving into administration. She now lives in Derbyshire with husband Mike and enjoys reading, drawing, walking, gazing at creation and generally being creative. At 16, after nominal church involvement, April encountered Jesus as suffering saviour. This shaped and motivated her throughout her life. April is now ‘retired’ and serves as an Anglican lay minister, with particular interest in contemporary worship and music-making, preaching, spirituality and silent prayer.

April has been an avid reader throughout her life and has often written bits and pieces of prose and poetry, mainly as prayer and self-expression. In more recent years, however, she has been able to use writing as part of her Christian ministry. Now published locally and nationally, she is a member of Derby Cathedral Café Writers’ Group and ACW (Association of Christian Writers) and self-published a small book of her own reflections and poems in 2022.

Why did you enter the competition?

I saw the details of the competition in regular BRF Ministries updates and was immediately interested. 2023 had not been an easy year and my creative and spiritual juices seemed a bit dried up. The competition offered an incentive to get writing again. Then there was Piglet – the ancient guinea pig I had been obliged to adopt but who had whooped her way into my heart. Hers was a story I wanted to tell.

What was it like to hear you had won?

I had been feeling low from one of the bugs going around and had been asking God to renew my energy and give me a new creative spark. When I opened my emails and saw the message from BRF Ministries, I couldn’t quite believe it. I felt exhilarated and humbled. I am never quite sure whether people who say positive things about my writing are just being ‘nice’ or whether it is a true appraisal and, because I write mainly short ‘bits and pieces’, it is easy to feel that this is of little value. To have an objective encouragement from a national competition is really empowering and underlines that God can work through us even when we are struggling.

Any advice to other writers?

  • Write about things you are passionate about, things that motivate and encourage you.
  • Don’t be religious – be real.
  • Let your quiet time, Bible reading and meditation kindle your everyday stories and experiences.
  • Edit ruthlessly.
  • Never give up.


Trusting by April McIntyre

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. Isaiah 12:2 (NIV)

Piglet eyes me with suspicion and backs away. I reach out but she’s wriggling and squealing. Then, at last, I lift her and hold her close.

Piglet is our large, sleek, elderly guinea pig. She used to belong to our granddaughter and has a grey/white coat, a creamy brown face and a single rosette on top. She likes to eat grass in her run on the lawn, whoops wildly for carrot sticks and loves diving into new heaps of hay.

So why does she struggle when I pick her up? Is she frightened? Or is it all a game? Perhaps she still doesn’t know me well enough, doesn’t trust me, despite my efforts to make her life interesting. But trust is not easy. It only comes by spending time together, day after day: communicating; interacting, playing together.

Perhaps the same is true in our Christian lives. It doesn’t matter how much we learn about theology or how many times we go to church, we need to develop a relationship with God through prayer, study and just ‘being’ together. If we can do this, trust will grow.

To his confused disciples, Jesus said, ‘Trust in God; trust also in me’ (John 14:1). He says the same to us in our challenges. Perhaps, as we look to Jesus, even our panic will subside and we’ll allow God to lift and hold us close.

Prayer: Loving God, help me to experience your compassion as I look into the face of Jesus. Help me to trust and not be afraid. Amen.


Runner up Christine Woolgar 

Christine Woolgar works for a professional services firm and is a part-time theology student. She loves to write creatively and almost always takes her inspiration from the Bible. She also has a passion for helping people connect with God through scripture. Christine is married, an avid reader, musician, and Pentateuch enthusiast. She runs a blog for devotional content at Faith in Grey Places.


Why did you enter the competition?

I love writing about the Bible, and I had a conviction that if I want to be serious about writing in ways that help people connect with God through the Bible, then I needed to put myself out there more. I appreciate the work that BRF Ministries does and figured that the worst that could happen was not winning. But if I did get somewhere, that would be valuable.


What was it like to hear that you had won?

It was a lovely surprise. I’m really looking forward to seeing it in print and I hope that it will help others as they wrestle with the question of whether to stay or go from their setting.


Advice to other writers

Always read the guidance – it’s there to help you! It’s always difficult keeping to a word count, especially a tight one. I had something that was a little over the limit but each time as I shaved a few words here and there it made me wonder if I was changing a nuance in what I was saying. I had to really focus on what the core point was, and not get distracted by all the other things that I could say!

I think there’s a real art in hinting at the bigger picture and the deeper aspects of the issues you’re dealing with – especially where there might be uncomfortable implications. For me, one of the most important phrases in my reflection was ‘my supposed untapped potential.’ It probes into my underlying assumptions and questions them at the same time. It’s my hope that these words will gently resonate where they need to, and not diminish enjoyment of the wider reflection where they don’t.

We don’t have to say everything – only enough. And sometimes it’s enough to ask a question without answering it.


Stay or Go? by Christine Woolgar

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty. Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

Over the last 14 years, I have tried – several times – to leave my employer.

At first, it was because I was unhappy. Later, the Holy Spirit prompted me to interview for external roles but I wasn’t offered one. Even now, I feel the tug of wondering if here is where I’m meant to be. It’s not that I have a bad job or don’t generally enjoy what I do; I just don’t see myself achieving very much for God’s purposes. If I was somewhere else, couldn’t I be better utilised?

When I first started with my employer, Isaiah 55:10–11 stood out to me: just as rain doesn’t return to the sky without producing crops, neither would I leave this workplace until God had accomplished what he purposed to do through me. I often come back to these verses. What exactly is God’s purpose? Will I recognise it? Are we nearly done yet?

The missiologist Christopher Wright wrote, ‘I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission.’ Following God’s call can of course be fulfilling, but utilising my supposed untapped potential isn’t the goal. So I remind myself of God’s promise: I may not know exactly why I am where I am, but if he won’t let me return to him empty, then I am content.

Prayer: Lord, help me not to see myself in utilitarian terms. Give me patience and enable me to give you joy in both who I am and what I do. Amen.


About The Upper Room Writing Competition 2023-24

Please note The Upper Room Writing Competition for 2023-24 is now closed.

The Upper Room
began publication in the USA in the early 1930s and today it is published in 35 different languages and can be found in 100 countries around the world. The series has an estimated readership of three million people worldwide and is unique in that the writers of the notes are its readers – and without people willing to write meditations, there would be no magazine

We'd like to encourage new writers to contribute to the series by writing a short meditation on a Bible verse, rooted in their own experience. The aim of each day’s meditation is to help people make a connection between their lives and what God is doing in the world.

The Upper Room writing competition offers one person the opportunity to be published in an upcoming UK edition of the magazine – they and the runner up will also receive a one–year subscription to The Upper Room.

All you need to do is send us your own meditation in the same style as those in The Upper Room by midnight on 30 November 2023.

Follow the links below to find instructions on how to enter.


How to enter

Additional guidance

Terms and conditions

Useful Tips

Stories, encouragement and advice from past winners