Love in action: A Bible Apostolate session in progress. Photo: SVDP BA

A parish Bible Apostolate leader shares his experience

Michelle Tan

Ronnie Chia is effervescent in his enthusiasm as he shares about the Bible Apostolate (BA) at the parish Church of St Vincent de Paul (SVDP).

“We are not a Bible Apostolate team,” he says, “We are a family, we and the people who attend our session! We help each other discover the treasure of the Bible in a very experiential way – we have to do a lot of reading and homework to prepare for each weekly session, but through watching the DVD presentations, sharing the Word of God and how it speaks to us in the personal circumstances of our lives, and fellowship, we gradually build community and relationship, and form strong bonds of respect and trust as a parish family.”

Ehrlich Phua, who coordinates the BA with Ronnie, adds, “Our BA is not just about head knowledge, but more importantly, about the heart.”

A great Bible adventure

Newcomers start with The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation by the Ascension Press, USA. At first, participants find the demands of the 24-week programme daunting, but at its end, participants are overjoyed to understand the Big Picture of God’s plan for all humanity, and see how each of them have their unique role to play in it. Many continue with subsequent programmes on the Gospel of Matthew, the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation.

Quoting St Augustine, Ronnie says, “The greatest adventure is to seek Him! When Bible Timeline “graduates” see how their own personal life-story fits into God’s story of salvation, and when they read about the many men and women in the Bible who gave their lives in fulfilment of God’s plan for them, they are very inspired. They realise what it means to be a witness of the Lord.”

Ronnie observes that the most immediate fruits of the attendees’ Bible “adventure” are that they feel a greater sense of belonging to the parish and a deeper appreciation of the Mass.

As Andrew Chua, a participant who later became a facilitator, shares, “The Mass has become so much more meaningful for me. It is no longer a ritual or an obligation. I pay more attention now because I have learnt to see how the New Testament (the Gospel reading) is hidden in the Old (the First Reading), I remember the background of the Bible passages, and I can understand the homilies much better.”

A new Covid-19 adventure

Formed only two and a half years ago, the SVDP BA started with only 3 classes of 14 people and two facilitators each. Response was tremendous, but due to space constraints, classes were limited to only six for each programme, despite a long waiting list.

Now, with online Zoom sessions, such physical limitations have been removed; however, attendance has actually dropped, because of technological and other challenges faced by participants. And gathering as an online community is just not the same.

Yet, Ronnie is as upbeat as ever. “This new media is a gift from God – we have to use it! Now we can share our experiences with each other without leaving the comfort of home, our group-chats are alive and active with spiritual quotes and videos, and best of all, when our family members see us dedicating a certain number of hours every week to study the Bible, and overhear us sharing our testimonies, we are sowing the seed of God’s Word in their hearts – we are evangelising without even realising it!”

Andrew agrees, “Take advantage of these online BA sessions, if you can. They will change you, as they changed me.” And Ehrlich adds, “When you hear the participants’ faith stories of how God is moving in their lives today as He did in the lives of the biblical men and women, you realise that the Word of God is really alive and active, and that He is always in our midst.”

Ronnie concludes, “St Augustine said: ‘To fall in love with Him is the greatest love story.’ That’s why we must keep telling that story.”