By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published June 11, 2020
JACKSON—Parishioners at St. Mary Mother of God Church in Jackson participated in a ‘round-the-clock Bible marathon May 28-June 1. Families read the Bible out loud in rotation for 120 hours.
When Father Jose Kochuparampil, pastor of the Jackson parish, brought up the idea, Rich McPhee said he thought it was brilliant. He and his wife, Missy, organized the event. The life-long Catholics have been married for more than 40 years and parishioners at the Jackson church for nine years. They stayed in a 34-foot RV outside of the church during the marathon.
“We are going through an unprecedented time where churches are closed and the people are kind of afraid to come out as a result of the pandemic,” said Father Kochuparampil. The goal was to instill the word of God into the hearts and lives of people—to instill hope and optimism in the minds of parishioners during these trying times, he said.
“Ultimately, it was a wonderful way to bring the parish together again,” said Rich.
The marathon incidentally coincided with the same weekend churches in the Archdiocese of Atlanta began opening for in-parish worship. Church buildings had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since March. On May 18, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., sent guidelines and conditions for parishes to follow for reopening the weekend of May 30-31, the weekend of Pentecost.
Many of those guidelines were followed during the marathon. Parishioners signed up to read for specific times and were only allowed into the church one at a time or by family, which allowed for social distancing. Many wore masks when they arrived for their reading time. Equipment and furniture were cleaned between readers.
Father Kochuparampil was very persistent that people read into a microphone, said Missy. He wanted us to proclaim the word of God, she said.
“Being a small parish there were challenges in finding so many volunteers at the beginning,” said Father Kochuparampil. The Jackson parish has some 250 registered families. Rich and Missy encouraged participation through Facebook and announcements following livestream Masses. Forty-three families participated in the 120-hour marathon.
The dialogue that the marathon sparked in the office and among parishioners about the Bible has been Missy’s favorite part of the event.
“It has just created a conversation that is phenomenal within our church right now,” she said.
“Many expressed their willingness to sign up over and again once they experienced something so divine,” said Father Kochuparampil.
A Mass to celebrate the marathon and thank participants was held on June 2 at the Jackson parish. During the Mass, the last chapter of Revelations and the first book of Genesis were read.
This experience shows even if you’re a small rural parish out in the country, you can still make things happen, said Missy. Her favorite Bible verse is Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! His mercy for us is strong; the faithfulness of the Lord is forever. Hallelujah!”
Rich said he hopes parish projects continue to bring people together and open eyes to the Bible a little bit more. His favorite verse comes from Matthew 8:8, a phrase said by a Roman soldier in the Bible repeated in Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
“As Catholic Christians, we need to deepen our knowledge of the Word of God,” said Father Kochuparampil. “Our people love when Bible verses are used to convey a message and the message goes into the hearts of the listeners.”