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The past 20 months have been difficult for many people, businesses and certainly churches and parishes.

The previous normal has changed, but one celebration for the region’s religious community has stayed the same.

This coming week is National Bible Week, as it typically has been the week of Thanksgiving – from Nov. 21 to 27 this year.

Christians in the United States spend the week honoring the Bible and reciting hymns, prayers, proverbs and prophecies of the religious text.

“It’s always important to be immersed in the sacred Scripture,” said the Rev. M. John Lynam, of St. James Parish at Immaculate Conception Church in Washington. “Especially, at this time of the year.

“We are immersed here in the mystery of the incarnations. We have three evangelists – Matthew, Luke and John – who have powerful ways of talking about it.”

Pastor Rick Wiater, of the nondenominational Good Shepherd Church in Upper St. Clair, said a Bible study fellowship has long existed at the church.

“The study of God’s Word is preeminent here,” Wiater said. “God and his Word are one in the same with the words in the Bible. I spent many hours gaining a master’s degree in theological studies and (after all the fact gathering) ended, I concluded that it is all one.”

Both Waiter and Lynam saw their churches struggle through the early part of the pandemic. Many parishes and congregations continue to fight low attendance numbers and the loss of certain annual events because of the pandemic.

“We’re holding our own,” Lynam said, in reference to attendance numbers. “We have a long way to go. We do livestream our Masses and that is helpful to our elderly, who have health or mobility issues and to protect themselves healthwise.”

Prior to the pandemic, St. James Parish provided Bible study throughout the year. That had to end at the beginning of the pandemic and the schedule remains altered.

“We’re trying to find a forward to continue consistent work with the Scripture,” Lynam said.

Wiater said his congregation is back to around 96% and has been for “about four months.” He said the process of holding meetings in person and over Zoom served everyone pretty well in the early stages of the pandemic.

“People started to like going to church by turning on the computer, remaining in their pajamas and having coffee while attending church,” he said. “We went for having to shut own completely at first to decide to eliminate the Zoom opportunity and only offering meeting in person has pushed attendance numbers upward.”

Wiater offers a daily devotional and a portion of scripture via email and established a program of daily bible reading that if followed completely would allow one to finish the bible – Old and New Testament – in a year’s time.

Lynam said the parish hasn’t returned to all previous activities, but more things are being done and more is being allowed in terms of normal activities at Immaculate Conception.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt commemorated the word of God by observing the first National Bible Week in 1941. Since then, every president has continued the tradition of celebrating the Bible during Thanksgiving week.

The Bible, the all-time bestseller, is central to the religion of Christianity, and the English translation has more than 100 versions. National Bible Week celebrates the text in its glory – bringing communities together to read their favorite verses and share personal interpretations with the world.

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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