Do It Yourself: Bible Study Can Begin at Home

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The fresco “Peter walking on water towards Jesus in the Duomo” by Italian painter Lattanzio Gambara, found in Parma, Italy.

by Moira Cullings
[email protected]

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In 1974, Catherine “Cackie” Upchurch participated in her first Little Rock Scripture Study (LRSS).

Only in high school at the time, she could never have predicted how the experience would change the course of her life.

“I thought it gave life,” she says. “I didn’t know we could read the Bible and get so much out of it. It was a new opportunity at that time.

Years later, Upchurch became the Director of LRSS, a role she held for 20 years.

Cackie Upchurch was the first lay person and the first woman to lead Little Rock Scripture Study, a Bible study program started in 1974.

His scriptures series appeared in The Leaven last fall and will be published again this year.

“I think the scriptures have erased some of the rough edges in my life,” she said, “and at the same time refined other things that needed to be better worked out – what is my system of values, how I control my day [and] the commitments I make.

“It gave me a better understanding of who I am called to be and how I can help build the kingdom of God.

Make your own way

Upchurch has always been a pioneer.

She studied theology in college and focused on patristics – the study of the writings of the Church Fathers – in college, which was rare for a layman at the time.

“I didn’t know anyone when I was in high school studying theology, unless you were a priest or a sister,” she said.

After graduating, Upchurch taught theology and worked as a campus minister at Mount St. Mary’s Academy in Little Rock. During this time, she started volunteering with LRSS on weekends.

After being invited for the second year in a row, she said “yes” to joining the full-time LRSS team.

“It felt like a natural progression in my life,” she said, “as the Bible became more and more important to me as I began to understand and understand it better. appreciate it. “

“The Crowning with Thorns” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is exhibited at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Upchurch started as an associate director of LRSS and eventually took on the role of director. She was the first layman and the first woman to do so.

She has participated in many innovative projects that have taken her all over the world. Most notably, perhaps, she helped create the LRSS Study Bible, which was published in 2011.

The trip was a roller coaster for Upchurch, who recently retired but is busy with various writing projects.

“At the time, I think the biggest challenges were finding my place,” she said.

But she wasn’t worried about being accepted on the pitch. Instead, she sought to confirm the credibility of her own faith.

“The challenge for me was not focusing on what the limits might be,” she said, “but rather where the doors were open and what the possibilities were.”

Become a Bible scholar

Catholics do not have to memorize passages of Scripture to become more familiar with the Bible, Upchurch said.

“Bible literacy is more about feeling at home with the word of God,” she explained.

“It’s learning to recognize its themes and maybe some of the patterns of experiences with God,” she continued. “Bible literacy is about creating that level of ease in browsing the Bible. “

This literacy also helps people grasp the context, culture and original language of the passages they read.

Because of the abundance of resources that exist today, this is “a great time to access the tools of Bible scholarship so that we can become more comfortable in this way,” said Upchurch.

These tools can be particularly useful, she said, because the Bible is not filed chronologically.

“It’s a library of books that are put together, and some of them are grouped by genres, like the Letters of Paul and the Psalms,” Upchurch said. “It reflects all of those times in history, so it’s hard to keep it straight.”

The fresco of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb can be found in the collegiate church of San Gimignano, Italy.

Upchurch said the effort to understand the Bible was worth it.

“If we really take what the word of God is about – in its full context, not only isolating passages here and there, but having a sense of the fulness that God reveals in the scriptures – we are going to be different in really seriousness. consequence, “she said.

Move the masses

Colleagues like Amy Ekeh, current LRSS director, are inspired by Upchurch’s relationship with the scriptures.

“Cackie reads the scriptures like a conversation, a push-and-pull [and] an experience that values ​​questions, research and even tension over simple answers or distilled truths, ”she said.

It is no surprise to Ekeh that Upchurch has spread the truth of Scripture far and wide.

“For Cackie, the sacred truths of Scripture are as real as going for a walk with a friend or listening to an old family story,” Ekeh said. “They are not ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ – they are as close to us as the air we breathe and the people who cross our path every day.”

Cackie Upchurch Colleaguesare inspired by Upchurch’s relationship to Scripture. PHOTO BY JOEL MUNIZ / UNSPLASH

Peter Dwyer, director of Liturgical Press, has also worked with Upchurch over the years. He is moved by the ease with which she teaches scripture.

“The curiosity and spirit that feeds his scholarship also feeds his creativity, whether it’s promoting scripture study, developing covers or advertising designs, or thinking about new programs,” a- he declared.

“Cackie has made an enormous contribution to Bible literacy among Catholics through her work as director of the Little Rock Writing Study, commissioning, editing, writing, filming and teaching in person in most of the state dioceses. “United”, he added.

Live the faith

If dedicating her life’s work to the scriptures taught anything in Upchurch, it is that God is all around her.

“You learn to see the hand of God and hear the voice of God in many ways,” she said, “because you see it emerging in these stories of these people in the scriptures”.

For Cackie Upchurch, life as a scripture scholar has helped her defend her faith and see the presence of God in her daily life. PHOTO BY TIMOTHY EBERLY / UNSPLASH

Upchurch hopes more Catholics will benefit from the graces they can receive from reading the Bible.

“I think on the one hand we don’t know if it’s really going to be relevant or meaningful enough,” she said, “and on the other hand, we’re afraid it will.

“And if it does, we’ll change. And change is never easy for anyone. And being countercultural is certainly not easy to be.

“But if we are biblical people, we will be really counter-cultural.”

Start with what you know

By Catherine Upchurch
Sourdough Special

When you read the Bible, you are never alone. The Spirit of God assists you and the community of God’s people accompanies you.

The Bible was written in a very different time and culture from ours, but we share the same human condition (experiences of jealousy, fear, joy, love, forgiveness, etc.). These common human experiences help us enter the world of the Bible.

We have more access to excellent Catholic Bible scholarship than any other generation in history. Footnotes, cross-references, atlases, and commentaries help us appreciate the original context of a passage and anchor our understanding to it first.

A painting of Mother Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, in the church in Valencia, Spain.

You can come up with surprising ideas by first spending time with parts of the Bible that are most familiar to you (a gospel or the book of Exodus, for example). Then move on to parts of the Bible that are less familiar to you.

The scriptures tell us more than 350 times to “be not afraid”. God assures you that He can handle any fear you have of digging into the Bible – fear of feeling ignorant, or of being challenged, or just of taking the time.

Trust Yourself: A faith-filled reading of the Bible will lead to an encounter and a deeper relationship with Christ and with God’s people.


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