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Column: When you take church out of the name, it’s just not the same
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

In 1957, Ford Motor Co. introduced the Edsel brand of cars. Edsel was the first name of founder Henry Ford’s son. 

The car was not a big seller and by 1960 was gone. Many blamed the name. 

A lot of mainline churches have dropped the denomination from their name. Some of them changed the name completely. The idea is that people who don’t like Baptists may be inclined to attend a church that is just called Lakeside or Parkview or whatever the name might be.

There might be some merit to that if the church had a bad reputation for something that took place there. 

Some of them have taken that a step further and dropped the name church. If you are going to a building for worship services on Sunday morning, it is more than likely a church. 

Beginning this week and continuing through part of the summer, churches, worship centers, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and nondenominational places will be holding Vacation Bible School. 

Many of them purchase a pre-packaged kit from the Baptists. They have a company called Lifeway Christian Resources. I guess church supplies would scare somebody away. 

In these kits, there are musical recordings, all sorts of graphics and a storyline to go with the Bible school. These kits include concepts like finding Jesus in a submarine, a spaceship or on a dude ranch. The picture of a roping and wrangling Jesus makes me roll my eyes. 

I went to Vacation Bible School when the theme was marching and eating little butter cookies with a hole in the middle. We marched in by school grade. We were led by some older kids who carried the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. 

They don’t do that anymore. I guess that pledging allegiance to the Bible might get you kicked off the spaceship or the submarine.

We would line up on the walkway of the church or, for you more modern types, the building for conducting religious services. They would play a hymn that had a march tempo, like Onward Christian Soldiers. 

After the assembly was dismissed, we would go to our classrooms and usually make something that we would take home. Our church had a kiln for curing clay. I made my mama an ashtray, an interesting gift considering that neither of my parents smoked.

One year, we did something about our families. We cut pictures representing them from the Sears, Roebuck catalog. My catalog dad was always a square-jawed man wearing a suit and tie. For some reason, I picked my mother out of the ladies’ underwear pages. The teacher suggested I might want to find something more appropriate for church. 

I never dressed my dad as an astronaut or my mama as a scuba diver.

I read this week that Vacation Bible School is on the decline. In 1997, 81% of churches had VBS. By 2012, that number had dropped to 68%.

My uneducated guess is because they quit marching and eating butter cookies.

Butter cookie eating was not an official Bible school event, but it was a great one. You would put the cookie on your finger and take tiny bites in a contest with your buddies to see who could bite the most. After taking a bite, you had to stick your tongue out to show that you had a morsel of cookie ready to eat.

You would wash down the cookies with some modestly watered-down Kool-Aid.

What kid would not want to be in that competition?

If you still have one of those old-fashioned, marching, cookie-eating, Kool-Aid drinking, craft-making Bible schools, call me, I’ll be right over.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.

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