WESTMINSTER — Parishioners at St. John's Roman Catholic Church are lifting the veil of time.
"I think we're all trying to get back to basics," said Martha Kirkpatrick, a student in St. John's classes tracing Catholicism from its creation to the present.
"So much has been added to the doctrine over the centuries that the basics have been drowned. We need to dig them out again."
The nine-month series brings in speakers from St. John's and other parishes across the state.
The Rev. David Pietropaoli from St. John's will teach the next class, "The Early Centuries" at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.
"In January, we have the Rev. Timothy Kulbickie, who is just back from Rome with a doctorate in church history," said Ann McGiver, director of St. John's adult education programs. "We're hoping not only to gain a knowledge of Scripture, but to build a sense of community within this large parish."
The church serves 3,325 families who livein an area of about 200 square miles, she said.
Participants in the classes may attend as many classes as they like.
"We've also opened it to the surrounding parishes and even people from non-Catholicchurches," McGiver said. "Anyone is welcome."
Although classes are free, participants may wish to contribute $10 each for materials, she said. Registration is encouraged, but not necessary.
"The grandfinale is a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Conewago, a very old Jesuit mission," McGiver said. "We're giving first choice to anyone who has registered for the program."
A complementary program is a Bible study of the Book of Acts. Members break into groups of 10 or 12 people and study the book chapter by chapter with the help of audio and video tapes.
"Participants are expected to spend 20 minutes a day reading Scripture," McGiver said.
They then answer study guide questions such as "What do we know about Luke, the author of this book?" or "How have you experienced the excitement of the Holy Spirit in your life?"
Although the classes are independent, members said they are learning more by combining them.
"They fit together like a handand glove," said Connie Cinnequino. "You get a lot more out of it ifyou can do them both together."
Initial classes have been well attended, with 115 people attending the history classes and 140 signed up for scripture study, McGiver said.
"Its been very well received, showing the relevancy of church history in our lives today," said McGiver. "There seemed to be a greater number than last year for the adult education class."
Cinnequino said she signed up for the classes to learn more about Jesus and the basis of Christianity.
"I always wanted to be in a Bible study and there wasn't one available in the past," she said. "The way we learn more about Christ himself is tolearn and study about him in the Bible. That's the source."
She said she also wanted to understand the circumstances surrounding certain Bible verses.
"I find that what I read in the Bible is exactly what I need," Cinnequino said. "It doesn't matter if it's 1991 or long ago, it applies to people now, to people in the past and to people in the future. The Bible was written for all time."
However, Kirkpatrick said she took the class to keep up with current changes in theCatholic church.
"I'm learning and continuing to develop my thoughts and my mind so I don't just stand still," she said. "The religionof my childhood is not the religion of my adulthood -- it keeps developing."
Classes, usually meeting the second Monday of each month,through April, are conducted at the church.