Betty and Josie Clawson... Bob and Lela Bauerband... Thelma Farmer... Ruby and Rosemary Whitehall... George Ellsworth... Alice Witt... Jim, Ann, and Wally Knight... these are just some of the names I remember fondly from my tiny, hometown church. These are some of the people who made a lasting, positive impression on my Christian life.
Did they know they were doing it? Probably not.
Some taught Sunday School classes and brought communion when I was sick and some filled-in as adjunct grandparents after my grandmother died.
They invested in me, smiled at me, asked me questions about myself, made me feel pretty and important. They watched me grow.... and they participated in that growth.
Did Mrs. Bauerband know she was gracefully answering one of the biggest faith questions of my lifetime when third-grade-me confided in her, "I'm not sure I can believe the earth was made in exactly six
What a brilliant and kindly answer for a shy girl who was afraid to admit her faith might be faltering. Knowing that Mrs. Bauerband also had questions helped me feel like I wasn't alone.
Skip ahead a couple of years to the summer that our little Presbyterian church didn't have enough similar-aged kids to pull off Sunday School. They didn't give up on the handful of kids that showed up. Instead, they did a very innovative thing: they combined the adults with the kids and we all learned together for the summer. A couple of the men of the church were engineers and builders -- so, of course, we built stuff: the ark... the ark of the covenant... lyres... clay oil lamps... nativity creches. And many of the ladies were pretty crafty, so we made dozens of plaster animals and figures for the ark and the nativity. -- all while learning the biblical principles behind each story.
This intergenerational teaching approach bore three fruits:
1. The adults got to really KNOW me... not just as "Jo Ann's daughter" but as an individual
2. I got to really KNOW the adults... not just as "Julie's dad" or "the lady that always wears the hats," but as real, 3-dimensional people.
3. These people who came to know me became my spiritual family. When they told me stories or gently corrected me... I listened. I felt protected by "my people." I didn't want to disappoint them.
What a legacy they left!
Now it's my turn.
This summer. In this church.
And, it's your turn.
On four consecutive Sunday evenings in June, Union Chapel is offering an Intergenerational Vacation Bible School Experience. Whether you have kids or not, I challenge you to make a difference by choosing to learn alongside the whole of our church family.
We'll learn about Noah. We'll build an ark (or maybe several). We'll eat cleverly themed desserts. We'll marvel at the unique, little-known facts about the ark. And we'll get to know each other.
This will be fun. And, it's important.
Because, in 30-or-so years, our kids are going to look back fondly at this season of learning and think... I remember Mr. __________ who taught me how to drive a nail and taught me about the faith of Noah... I wish I could thank him.