Saturday, July 2, 2016

Growing in faith at Vacation Bible School

From the WORD, of Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church, Herndon, June 2016.

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.”  Matthew 19:4.

In the little town where I grew up, kids didn’t go to sports camp in the summer.  There weren’t art or music camps either, for that matter, or academic enrichment camps or canoeing and rock climbing camps.  My family didn’t take much vacation, either, because Mom always played the organ on Sunday mornings.  But there was Vacation Bible School, and it was pretty much the highlight of the summer.

We had Vacation Bible School at our own church, of course, the first two weeks after summer vacation began.  But sometimes, mom would haul us off to the Vacation Bible Schools at other churches—at the Lutheran church up on the hill, where you could play tag in the enormous cemetery, or at my grandparents’ Methodist church.  One summer, I think we spent a full four weeks in Bible School, which probably amounted as many Bible stories, peppy songs and graham crackers as a full year of Sunday School at Saint John’s.

My brothers and I never complained about it, though, because it was always so much fun.  Our church didn’t have very many kids, but Bible School drew together dozens more (and sometimes hundreds, as the one at our own church gradually blossomed into a grand community event).  Many of our cousins and friends from school came to Bible School.  It was helpful to know that you weren’t alone in living your faith, that other kids like you prayed the same prayers and learned the same stories about God’s love and the way He worked wonders in the lives of His people. 

My brothers and I memorized the songs and sang them on car rides, and the games and special presentations were often great fun.  I still remember the time an arborist came and hauled a few kids up in a tree so we could see what Zacchaeus’ view must have been like (no chance the insurance companies would permit this sort of thing today).  Some years, a missionary would visit, or we’d watch a video about the place where our daily offerings were sent. 

Even as a child, I was impressed by how many people were involved in the grand production that was Vacation Bible School.  A big crew would gather a few weeks before to paint decorations.  Men would stay after church to move furniture and room dividers to set up classrooms all over the church grounds (even in the pastor’s garage).  Teenagers acted out a skit every day that brought the themes of the story to life (I ended up taking this on for quite a few years, gaining much of my confidence in front of people through it).  A crew of folks staffed the kitchen preparing snacks.  One sweet older lady counted the offering every year.  Others collected the materials and then led us through the steps of some pretty elaborate crafts.  And of course, there were the Bible stories—brought to life by creative and committed teachers.

I never had an overwhelming spiritual experience at Vacation Bible School, but it certainly helped my faith to grow.  The stories and songs shaped my confidence that God was faithful and that He wanted me to know Him better and to do His will.  I am grateful that I was raised among Christians who thought it was important that kids come to love and serve the Lord, and who worked so hard to put on such a production to bring the faith to life in such an exciting and fun-filled way.

I’m really grateful that we have such a strong Vacation Bible School program here at Saint Timothy’s, and I’m excited that my own sons will be able to share in it again this summer.  Christine and her key parent leaders have been working together with some people from First Baptist Church to plan our VBS for months now.  Many of you will be involved in some part of it, from volunteering in some way here on site on July 10-15 to bringing in snacks or helping to set up.  Some of you will be students, or will be inviting kids you know and love to become students for the first time. 

Vacation Bible School is a way that we all share together in the joy of passing on the faith to those children who God continues to welcome, bless and encourage.  It’s fun and lively, and visitors are always welcome.  It might just end up being the highlight of your summer as well. 

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