More readers needed for Ref500 Scripture marathon

KJV Bible
Ray Van Neste, professor of biblical studies and director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies, holds a 1613 version of the King James Version Bible, which was donated by Linda Shoaf, a member of Union's Board of Trustees, and her husband David. | Photo by Jacob Moore

Union University is not only focused on the educational and inspirational well-being of their students, it also wants to positively affect the surrounding community. Through the Ryan Center, Union has introduced a unique outreach program to the counties throughout the Jackson area and this month, the Ryan Center is hosting Ref500.

Ref500 is the 500th anniversary celebration of the Protestant Reformation.

According to the Union brochure about the event, “Ref500 will celebrate the Reformation and prove the ways it has shaped our world for the better. Through music, theater, art, film and lectures, this festival will explore the impact of the Reformation across the wide range of human experience.”

As a way of recognizing the importance of this occasion, students and faculty of Union University, as well as other members of the public, are signing up to read ten-minute increments of Scripture beginning at 6 a.m. every morning, and lasting until midnight on the dates of March 6, 7, 9, 13 and 14.

“Celebrating the Protestant Reformation is not an experience unique or exclusive to Union, neither is the public reading of Scripture,” said Cody Curtis, assistant resident director for the men’s quads. “By reaching out to folks in the broader community, it unifies the city and West Tennessee region around a common idea.”

Ray Van Neste, Professor of Biblical Studies and of the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies, is heading up the event and encourages students to sign up for Scripture readings.

“There haven’t been as many students sign up as I have been anticipating. I thought about 200 spots would be taken by students but there’s not anywhere near that,” he said, urging students to participate.

Approximatley 50 ten-minute increments are still in need of readers. To sign up, go to

Van Neste said that University president Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver has signed up to read multiple times, as well as City Councilman Scott Conger and Jerry Gist, the mayor of Jackson.

All students are invited to attend every conference, concert, theater performance and art exhibit in relation to Ref500 for free. This conference not only encourages and informs, but is also a celebration of Scripture.

Ref500 will take place March 6-10.|photo by Sabrina Clendenin
Image courtesy of Sabrina Clendenin|Cardinal & Cream