A group of local residents spent the past couple of days attempting a feat that many never accomplish in a lifetime — reading most of the Bible and doing it in 36 hours.
“When you’re doing ministry, it’s not work,” Hywel Thomas said. “It’s joy.”
Thomas, who is with Seymour Harvest Church, was referring to the nonstop public reading of the Bible at One Chamber Square in downtown Seymour.
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Thomas, Pastor Gary Dyer, also with Seymour Harvest, and Seymour police officer Tim Toborg, organized the event, which began at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning and continued through 6 p.m. Thursday.
The event generally is conducted in conjunction with the annual National Day of Prayer, which was Thursday.
“We’re naming Seymour ‘The City of God’ this week,” Dyer said.
The event required the efforts of more than 150 readers, each who were scheduled to read for 12 minutes and then pray for an additional 12 minutes, Thomas said.
In previous years, the group read the Bible in its entirety, an effort that took the better part of three days and two nights and 360 volunteers.
The event was not conducted in 2016, and it was decided to have selections from the Old Testament and the full New Testament read during this year’s event.
“We know how the power of scripture can change lives,” said Tim Goodpaster, a team leader with the event. “It’s literally a love letter to us encouraging us and building us up.”
“The word encourages us, and we’ve selected passages that are centered around encouraging the people of God,” Thomas said.
The congregations from more than 14 churches came together for the event.
“When I finished reading and was walking out, a young veteran called after me,” Seymour resident Jeff Richey said.
Richey said the veteran told him that he had been wounded in Afghanistan and had become dependent on painkillers.
“He said he has been sober for six years and was going to go use despite that,” Richey said. “After hearing God’s word, he said he was going to go home instead of using.”
Richey said the two prayed after that for the strength to keep the veteran clean and going in the right direction.
”I am so thankful for the call and for God putting me where I could be in service to and for him,” he said. “I think I will sleep peacefully Team leaders selected readers to fill three-hour time slots.
“Those are the real troupers,” Goodpaster said. “We got prime time spots, but the ones in the wee hours of the morning are the rough ones.”
Thomas and Dyer said the response has been a little mixed, especially given the cold and wet weather during this year’s event, but Goodpaster, Thomas and Dyer all maintain that it is an essential effort for the community.
“Night after night, there is so much in the media, and there are tons of things about us getting further away from God, but we need this to say that we do have godly values and principles,” Goodpaster said. “We need to give a truer photo of the moral fabric of the nation.”
A highlight of the event began at noon Thursday when individuals, including city officials and others from the community, gathered to pray for different organizations and about issues in the community.
The Lord’s Prayer also was to be read in more than 10 languages as part of the recognition of the national event, which was designated in 1952 to be the first Thursday in May.
“It’s about unity and Jesus,” Thomas said. “Everyone is welcome to join us and others across the country in prayer.”
“With evil being greater than perhaps it’s ever been, the word of God is the only thing that can overcome addictions, broken homes, child abuse and more,” Goodpaster said. “Darkness can’t cast out darkness. Only light can do that.”
The weather may have held down attendance some, but many people came to listen and pray.
The event, put together by Toborg, was first conducted from April 30 to May 3 and was known as a Bible Reading Prayer-A-Thon. At the time, Toborg said he had attended a similar event the year before in Columbus, and the participants in that event had come within one minute of reading the Bible from cover to cover in 72 hours.