THE FIRST Bible Reading Marathon finally ended on a historic finish after almost five days that clocked at 100 hours and 31 minutes of non-stop, cover-to-cover reading highlighting a rare unity of the various church denominations and the collaboration of the city government in celebration of the National Bible Month.
An exhausted but elated Reverend Haniel Joses Taganas, Executive Pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Davao City (UCCP) “Church at the CROSSroads,” expressed his gratitude saying “We give all the glory to God who granted us the passion and energy to fulfill our desired goal to read the entire Bible which lasted for 100 hours and 31 minutes and ended on January 31 at 1:31 P.M.”
It can be recalled, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared January of every year as “National Bible Month” in recognition of the “religious nature of the Filipino people and the elevating influence of religion in human society.”
Duterte’s Proclamation No. 124 dated Jan. 5 also set every last week of January as “National Bible Week.”
Speaking before clerics and City Hall officials and employees on City Hall’s January 28, 2020 flag raising ceremony, Reverend Taganas stirred curiosity challenging, “how long will it take for you to read the Bible from cover to cover without stopping, reading it through?” His speech was followed by the Holy Bible’s Enthronement where it was paraded to the Rizal Park stage as the venue of the Bible Reading Marathon.
Recalling the origins of the Bible Reading Marathon idea, Rev. Taganas recalls that pastors and priests were invited for a luncheon fellowship at the St. Francis of Assisi parish located at La Verna Hills in Davao City during its parochial fiesta. With the Bible as their common interest, Pastors Flidita Villas and Taganas shared their experiences about their first Bible Reading Marathon in Silliman University Divinity School in Dumaguete. The idea became a eureka moment among the priests and pastors to replicate it for the year 2020 Bible Month celebration.
Reverend Taganas in the same meeting said, The Philippine Bible Month is a unifying factor among the cross sections of Evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics, and other denominations. Its theme aims to likewise collaborate with the local government units as an instrument for the unity and transformation of the nation.
Also backing the pastors and priests were their titular church heads and the Philippine Bible Society.
Participating members of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines are: United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church of the Philippines, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Roman Catholic.
Aside from various church denominations, sectors from different walks of life joined the historic reading. A group of senior citizens lead by Reverend Aury Labadan Bernaldez also of UCCP-Davao City who were assigned to read at dawn, sent their message to Reverend Taganas saying “Thank you pastor for coming to see us at this time in the morning. Wow it was also a chance to walk from the church to city hall back and forth. Thank you God for your word.”
In an earlier display of church unity, churches of various denominations recently celebrated a week before the Bible Reading Marathon of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020” which spanned for 9 days, each day hosted by a different denomination.
The UCCP-Davao City “Church at the CROSSroads” played host on the 7th day with Reverend Taganas preaching the sermon entitled “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” anchoring on Acts 28:2.”
On the start of his sermon, Reverend Taganas was on an emotional note as he broke news of his imminent departure as the church’s executive pastor. He added that the task was supposedly assigned to another pastor but instead was passed on to him since it will be his last celebration of said event in Davao City. (Reverend Taganas’ Visayan version of the sermon soon to be featured at the UCCP-Davao City Facebook page)
Former UCCP-Davao City executive pastor Reverend Ernesto Frias who was invited for the Sunday sermon a day prior to the Bible Reading Marathon, rhymed his preaching on the significance of the National Bible Sunday leafing through on John 17:22-23 famous as the prayer for unity of Jesus Christ “As thou, Father, art in me and I in thee,” emphasizing that unity should not only be for different denominations but as well as a unity of believers.
“We cannot and should not downplay its (John 17:22-23) significance, its meaning in our life.”
“Kay tungod si Hesukristo mismo ang maoy ga ampo niini.”
“We badly need it in the church. We badly need it in the family,” Reverend Frias preached citing the need of the observance of the National Bible Sunday.
Also on the same Sunday, the Gideons International which has been at the forefront of distributing free Bibles to institutions such as hospitals, hotel, penal institutions, and the like, shared their testimonial of a Muslim girl who sought for prayers from a ‘Gideon’ after receiving a copy of the Bible – proof that both Christianity and Islam is sourced from a united ancestry of Abraham being the ‘Father of All Nations.” (written and compiled by the UCCP-Davao City Multimedia Ministry. You may visit the UCCP-Davao City Facebook page to view more photos)