One of the hallmarks of Anglican worship is the reading of Scripture as a necessary part of corporate and individual prayer. But even daily readings from the Lectionary, although providing a selection from every part of the Bible over the course of two years, still would not yield a complete reading of the Bible.
So many in the Diocese of Central Florida have set out to do just that: read the Bible cover to cover over the span of 365 days.
“Why not make the goal of reading the entire Bible in 2013?” asked the Rev. Charlie Holt of a diocesan e-mail group in December. “By devoting 15-30 Minutes a day, you can read the entire Bible in a year. Every-day readings will be assigned from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms and a Proverb.”
Fr. Holt, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lake Mary, set up a schedule and study guide that can be downloaded and kept with participants’ Bibles. Daily devotions written by clergy and laity in the Diocese are posted each day.
The project can help Church growth as well as individuals’ personal, spiritual growth, say advocates of variou one-year Bible-reading programs.
“Most vibrant and growing churches share one thing in common – they have a strong commitment to teaching and reading the Bible,” according to the Pennsylvania-based Center for Biblical Studies, which says hearing the Scriptures on Sundays is insufficient for developing a good understanding of the Bible's deeper meanings and relevance today.
A Gallup poll in 2000 said 41 percent of Americans say they rarely or never read the Bible. An American Bible Society survey said that 79 percent of Americans say they know the Bible, but 54 percent couldn't identify its first five books.
“There is a vast difference between attending church and listening to a portion of the Bible being read aloud and actually reading the Bible on your own,” says the center’s “Bible Challenge” Web site, http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/what-is-the-bible-challenge/
Understanding the complete Bible also helps make Sunday readings more coherent, participants say.
“We are having a blast,” Fr. Holt said. “I am doing two classes on this we have 20 in one and 45 in the other.”
St. Peter’s Assistant Priest, the Rev. Wes Sharp, is coordinating the project and calling for daily devotionals. “The devotionals … have gotten rave reviews, so much that all the feedback I have gotten is ‘I hope we will have one of those every day because it is so helpful.’”
Fr. Sharp said groups and individuals may join the project at any time during the year. The readings will "wrap around" the 12-month cycle -- a reader beginning in March will conclude the following March, for example.
Several Central Florida churches are participating, including St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Belleview; Grace Church, Port Orange; Holy Apostles, Satellite Beach; and Church of our Saviour, Okeechobee.
“I am guessing that about 20 parishioners, including at least myself and Joan Brawley among the clergy, started at the beginning of September, making us about 37-percent finished,” said the Rev. Tom Seitz, rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Lake Wales.
Particularly helpful are apps available for iPads and iPhones, Fr. Seitz said. “I haven't done it myself, but I think the app will even read the lessons to you,” he said.
“Early results are astounding to me,” said the Rev. Tim Nunez, rector at St. Mary’s. “I don't have a clear handle on it yet, but am getting a lot of comment and testimony. Many folks are sharing it around with friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.”
St. Mary’s has linked its members to the Center for Biblical Studies site, and also to the St. Peter's, Lake Mary, version.
“The reading schedule is actually identical, I think,” Fr. Tim said. “I think St. Peter's site is actually easier to use and has better helps.”
Members at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Melbourne, also are tackling the Bible this year, said the Rev. Pam Easterday, co-rector with her husband, Fr. Steve Easterday.
“At Holy Trinity we surveyed a few folks and decided to do a less intimidating challenge,” she said. “We are doing the Essential 100 (http://e100challenge.com
), using ‘The Essential Bible Guide’ by Whitney Kuniholm, president of Scripture Union.”
That version is a 20-week challenge during which everyone will read 50 passages from the Old Testament and 50 passages from the New Testament, giving readers a broad overview of the Bible.
Kuniholm also will visit to Holy Trinity on Feb. 28 to speak as part of Holy Trinity’s Lenten Series.
Individual participants also say they are excited about the project and the discipline it imposes:
- “I need to make time to do this regardless of the busy-ness of life,” said Sue Grosso, guest-services manager at Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center.
- “I started a couple of months ago when it was first on the clergy list,” said retired priest the Rev. Kathleen Eickwort. “Using one of the BiblePlan.org systems.”
- “The year is yet young and I'm already finding it a challenge,” said Beverley Coll, a member of All Saints, Winter Park. “There are endless diversions; however I very much want to do this.”