The Bible Challenge is a Bible study published by Forward Movement, designed to allow adult learners to read the Bible in a year. We wanted to know how this program works in a parish, and Episcopalian priest Andrew Sherman was happy to let us know how St Gregory's, Boca Raton, FL used the program.
How Did You Use The Bible Challenge?
The Bible Challenge was a 2013 diocesan effort. We created a dedicated website where the daily reflections were posted, along with the schedule and other resources. We had about 95 members start and about 75 or so finished the challenge in the year or shortly thereafter. All developed substantial engagement with scripture.
We followed the schedule for readings outlined in the book. A few people read the reflections in the book. However, a number of priests in our diocese wrote daily reflections to correspond with the program and more people read those, rather than the book, so I'm not able to provide a review of the reflections.
How Well Did it Work?
The entire experience was deeply rewarding. People immersed themselves in the full arc of the story of scripture. For most parishioners, this was very different than the reading lectionary snippets, which can sometimes make it difficult to see the larger picture. The Challenge also created lots of conversation around the more challenging passages that deal with violence and passages of condemnation and judgment in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. But this deepened, rather than deadened, faith.
As a program, it was also effective at encouraging people who had always wanted to be more disciplined in reading scripture to take on this discipline. Those who wanted a structured way to read more scripture were significantly impacted by the availability of The Bible Challenge.
What Were the Best Parts of Your Experience?
The best parts of the experience were: 1. The group was doing this together as a shared adventure in faith and there were regular informal conversations about passages, ideas and responses among participants. 2. We created formal small groups that met to compare notes in a formal, intentional way about the week's readings. 3. The discipline of having a schedule to follow that kept people "on track". 4. God's Spirit was in this and we felt the pull of God, drawing us into a deeper relationship through this journey.
Would You Recommend this Curriculum to Others?
I would recommend The Bible Challenge without hesitation.
The Rev. Andrew James Sherman is the rector of St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, Boca Raton, FL. He serves as co-convener, with Rabbi David Steinhardt, of the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association and is a founding board member of Family Promise of South Beach County, an interfaith ministry to homeless families with children. Andrew is the co-author of the confirmation program I Believe: a Confirmation Program for the 21st Century, published by Leader Resources.