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Column: This is what made Vacation Bible School special in the old days
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I am the first to admit that school was never my strong suit. There was one exception: Vacation Bible School. 

I looked forward to Bible school with the greatest of anticipation.

Today, VBS is pre-packaged, homogenized collection of stuff with a central theme, like finding Jesus in a spaceship or a submarine. I guess it is supposed to be more exciting and capture the attention of the students.

This year, the current pandemic is resulting in some churches attempting an online Bible school. I really wish them well and hope that many little children hear the story of Jesus.

If I had my way, I’d have Bible school right here in the living room. We would march in from the front yard. I don’t know who “we” would be, because no one seems interested in my antiquated approach to Bible school. I would march alone.

I was a great marcher. My knees came within an inch of my chest. My back was straight as an arrow and my head was held high.

We marched in to great hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “We’ve a Story to Tell To The Nations.” When we were in place, the song would end and the pianist would play a pair of chords that went from high to low. This meant to sit down.

A similar pair of chords, from low to high, was a signal to stand up.

We would pledge allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. Three youngsters were selected to lead our marching parade by carrying the flags and the Bible. It was a big deal.

After a few announcements, it was time to go to our classrooms.

We would usually make something to take home at the end of the week. I can remember taking some dowel rods and cutting a piece of paper to make a scroll on which we would write a Bible verse that we had memorized.

I remember learning about Samuel, who lived in the temple as Eli’s helper. The Lord called Samuel and some of his writing on scrolls was found years later with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We learned about Joseph and his coat of many colors. A nice lady brought her Singer zigzag sewing machine and sewed strips of cloth together for us. It was a sleeveless coat of many colors, but we understood the message.

Joseph went looking for his brothers one time. He asked a man if he had seen them. “I heard them say, let us go to Dothan.”

My understanding was that he found them camped out near the Toyota place on the Dothan bypass.

We learned about Jesus working as a boy in Joseph’s carpenter shop. A man cut pieces of plywood and we nailed them together (with help) to make a birdhouse. I don’t know if Jesus ever made a birdhouse, but I thought about that every time I heard Ethel Waters sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

If you want to come to my Bible school, we will end the session with a contest to see who can eat the most bites off of a butter cookie with a finger-sized hole in the middle. I will also make some watered down Kool-Aid.

You can’t teach this stuff in a cardboard rocket ship. We just may learn something. Bring your own flags and Bible.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly. 

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