David Hedges has a confession to make.
He has never read the Bible cover to cover.
The head pastor at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Sycamore is working to change that, starting a program called the Bible Challenge that will lead him and his congregation on a 365-day journey through the entire Bible.
“Even with my fancy seminary degree, I told the congregation I have never read the entire Bible,” Hedges said. “I am on this journey with them.”
Hedges has learned from his past mistakes in attempting to read the entire Bible and hopes the new format in the program will keep him and those participating on track and inspired. Hedges said when he tried in the past, he would sit down for an hour or two at a time and read chronologically.
But he said that strategy is not enriching because it is impossible to reflect on the message when dozens of chapters are read in one sitting. He also said it could be difficult to maintain concentration during “dry” passages that have little application to modern life.
“There is a lot about the Bible that is timeless and there is a lot that is timely so there are some dry parts,” Hedges said. “I’m not saying those parts are useless but you have to understand it is written in a cultural context in a world very different from ours.”
To avoid those lulls, the Bible Challenge breaks reading sessions into daily 15- to 20-minute blocks with each assignment including a passage from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms.
Hedges said reading the Bible in that format gives a more complete picture and shows how the New Testament built on the Old Testament. He also said by breaking readings into smaller sections, it gives people a chance to make scripture study a daily habit.
“It’s a much richer endeavor when it’s done on a daily basis,” Hedges said of reading the Bible. “There is really nothing that beats understanding the whole story.”
The challenge may come as a surprise to some, he said, considering St. Peter’s is an Episcopal church. Unlike other Christian denominations, Hedges said Episcopalians do not take a literal translation of the Bible and instead view it as a book written by multiple people over different time periods for different reasons.
But just because members do not take every word in the book literally does not mean the Bible is any less of a foundation for their faith, Hedges said.
“I really hope this brings people closer to God and is spiritually rewarding,” he said. “It’s not just about learning something new. It’s about making the Bible part of your life and help people understand why we worship as we do.”
The challenge has just started and Hedges said non-members are invited to participate and join the discussion. Hedges and the group of participants meet every Sunday at 8:45 a.m. before the late service to discuss the week’s readings.