Exploring the story of Hagar through an escape room
Members of Windsor Baptist Church stepped into the wilderness to gain new insights into Hagar during a service with a difference recently
The church swapped its usual Sunday morning gathering for an interactive and immersive experience based on an escape room. An escape room is a game in which a team of players cooperatively discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to progress and accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time.
For its escape room service, the church’s 19th century building was transformed to reflect the nomadic experience of the early Abrahamic community.
Fifty people participated in three distinct groups, each entering into Hagar's experience. They grappled with Hagar story as she makes sense of her encounter with God as an outsider, yet becomes an important contributor to the overall narrative.
Participants had to find puzzles and clues which related in different ways to the biblical story. These included a visual puzzle highlighting the importance of seeing in the story, and the way God sees us, and a morse code puzzle doing the same for audio, as the narrative stresses the meaning of Ishmael's name - 'God hears'. Lots of small puzzles contributed to two central puzzles which imitated the central issues in Hagar's story: the spring God provides in Genesis 16, and the appearance of the miraculous well in Genesis 21.
‘It really was quite an extraordinary day in the life of our church,’ said Kat Bracewell, minister of Windsor Baptist Church. ‘In place of a ‘normal’ Sunday service, we had three large groups of people walking in the shoes of Hagar in an interactive, intergenerational way.
‘There was a real buzz in the air as people (some of them completely new to the Escape Room concept) grappled with the puzzles and learned to communicate with one another in a different manner.
‘The person of Hagar – a woman on the margins of our traditional narrative – became very real to us, and as a result, our understanding of God as a passionate advocate for ‘outsiders’ grew stronger.”
The Escape Room service has been developed by Amanda Higgin, a pastoral assistant at Wallingford Baptist Church, and Baptist minister Graham Doel, who currently leads hOME, a community of spiritual seekers in the Oxford area.
It was trialled at both hOME and Wallingford in the autumn, and brought to Windsor at the end of January.
Amanda said, ‘Experimenting with the escape service is all about trying a new way of looking at the Bible. The puzzles pull you into the story, making the team face challenges in the same way as the characters they are following.
‘Bringing the service to Windsor was great fun for us as well as everybody taking part, and I'm excited to see where God takes us with this idea.’
Graham added, ‘I love being part of an immersive experience like this. They offer so much to the church in engaging people with ancient stories.
‘Retelling the less seen stories from the Old Testament is important. It enables people to see the role of those seen as outsiders being part of our faith tradition and story.’
If any churches are interested in Amanda and Graham bringing the escape room service to them, contact firstname.lastname@example.org