– I have a whole new understanding of the Letter to the Romans

– I have a whole new understanding of the Letter to the Romans

Since the New Year, the "Message to the Romans" Bible project has occupied youth groups from all corners of the world. On Sunday evening, it culminated in a finale of poignant content and powerful effects that the participants at the Easter camp will never forget.

While hundreds of people queue to secure a good spot, I meet 22-year-old Elise from Follo. She is going to sing in a choir, and already during the rehearsals she realizes that this will be an experience of a lifetime.

“It’s awesome,” she says enthusiastically.

And she’s not just talking about the evening in isolation, but also about the build-up beforehand with podcasts, local theme nights and the Bible texts from Romans.

“You realize how much work is behind it.”

A cinematic experience

Powerful effects are used to paint the contrasts between the beauty of God’s creation and the distress, destruction and conflict that characterize the world today. A symphony orchestra performs dramatic film music, while powerful film clips, sound, lighting and pyro effects are timed to perfection.

It’s like a multi-dimensional cinema experience. The applause breaks out, and the audience is so immersed in the world of the film that it feels like a grandstand during a football match. There are cheers when something is good, and exasperated sighs when the characters got it wrong.

Elise says she is completely blown away by the experience in the hall:

“There was a very special atmosphere among all the young people! It made a real impression to sit there and see everyone watching and empathizing with the characters in the film, and it was a worthy end to an eventful project.”

A year of preparation

Holding the attention of a packed theatre with almost 5,000 young people for an hour and a half is not something that just happens. Preparations began a year ago, but the last three months have required intense work to get ready for the theme night. Director Arvid Knutsen is intensely focused during rehearsals, and we ask him what he is most excited about with this performance.

“I’m excited to see how the young people, and maybe their parents too, will respond to the way we present the content.”

Why do you use such powerful tools?

“We present the reality that young people face every day, but in a large format. When you come to a Christian meeting, the direction is often quite predictable, but here we try to present the answers in the Bible in a way that makes an impression and is relevant. We believe it deserves it.”

Arvid Knutsen became involved in the project in May 2023.

The story is set in a historical context

Briefly, the story takes place in Corinth around 50 AD. Paul is writing his letter to the Romans, and several biblical characters are portrayed. Tertius takes notes while Paul discusses the content with several church servants, both men and women. Quartus is also part of the conversations, and he is portrayed as a committed youth who encounters small situations where he can use what he hears.

Towards the end, we join in as the letter is handed over and read to the Christians in Rome by Phoebe, the woman entrusted with this mission. Between the films, there are interactive elements where the audience can solve tasks on their mobile phones to reflect on the theme. And there is a Bible lesson with Kåre J. Smith, who goes into the themes in depth.

“All the tools get the message across in a way that surprises and makes a strong impression,” says Thilde, 19, from Denmark.

The message makes a personal impression

After the theme evening in the auditorium has ended, there is a relaxed yet thoughtful atmosphere. One of the recurring themes in conversations with the young people is that the message has struck a personal chord with them and given them something to think about.

Elise explains it this way:

“I’ve gained a completely new understanding of the book of Romans and especially with understanding sanctification. It is a personal life with God in secret that counts. Verses you thought you understood have taken on a whole new dimension, and it has made me want to work with God’s word and use it in my everyday life.

Thilde explains what she has gained from the Romans project for her part:

“Because of what we have learnt during this period, it has become a reality for me personally what it means to consider myself dead to sin and alive to God. The knowledge of this has given me a sense of security and peace. I can rest in the fact that everything happens for my good, because I love God and serve Him with my mind.”

Before she leaves, she wants to say one more thing:

“Thank you very much for the effort that has gone into the Bible projects. It is invaluable.”

The song “O may the Spirit’s lamp be ever burning” written by Anna Bjerkeli in 1937 was a common thread throughout the evening. Here it is performed by a large choir at the end.