Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I grew up attending a traditional Lutheran church.  There was nothing "contemporary" about it.  There were no big screens or power point slides and with a few "special music" exceptions the music was played on a pipe organ and the songs came from hymnals.  Eventually there was a contemporary service one day each month but I thought it seemed pretty weird.  Even with this traditional outlook, the church was still filled with kids who fidgeted, spilled cheerios, wrinkled candy and gum wrappers and doodled on the bulletins.  Confirmation aged kids took sermon notes and acted up in the balcony and took turns lighting the candles.  High school kids remained oblivious to the older congregation members' glares and whispers over whatever inappropriate church attire they were wearing (jeans! T-shirts! Skirts without nylons! The primary and secondary Sunday school groups each had a Sunday most months to "sing in church" which I really loathed but which the primary kids mostly loved.  I think everyone who had to listen to it loathed the secondary kids singing too.  Pre-pubescent 4th-7th graders generally don't have the "cute" going for them in these situations.  Through the whole school year church and Sunday school and the corresponding holiday festivities were part of the routine.  My mom taught and my dad was on Church Council for awhile and my grandma was a choir singer, quilter, and had a hand in all things Ladies Aid.  That old building is as familiar to me as my house, from the hidden ladder behind the organ pipes that leads to the bell to the strange basement storage rooms. 

Every summer, when kids' attendance at church dwindled without the motivation of getting to Sunday School first, there was one week where it came alive again.  It was a week I always enjoyed as a kid and later as a teenage volunteer.  Vacation Bible school!  Oh, VBS, with it's fun themes and uncharacteristic decorations and sophisticated crafts and delicious snacks.  And we even played games on the lawn of the church!  It was such a riot and was made even better because any kid could go and it was free so there were usually friends there who didn't usually go to the church and the kids from the "country churches" were there too.

Our neighbor works at a large Lutheran church here and their granddaughter is around regularly and she and Ben have become friends so they invited him to go to VBS with her.  It is this week.  It is mostly how I remember it, with a lot more kids (there are ten rooms of preschool kids!) and a much higher decorating budget.  It looks like prom in that place!  The theme is "Deep Sea Discovery" and everywhere you look there are jellyfish made of streamers, octopi with paper chain arms and sparkly blue tinsel draping all the doors.  From what I gather, they have focused on the "water" themed Bible stories.  Noah's Ark was the first night, Jonah was the second, and I have no idea what was last night.  His art project was a piece of paper with paint smeared all over it and it didn't offer any clues. 

I wanted to get a good picture of Ben with some of the decorations but there are so many people milling about before and after that it is hard to get one.  I got him to stand by this bird on the really doesn't do justice to the whole scene!

The theme and logo could easily be traded with the themes I remember from the 1990's.  The good old Augsburg Fortress Publishing House knows to keep a good thing going.  We found an old t-shirt from bible school in the early 1990's in my parents' attic last fall when we were cleaning.  The theme that year was something having to do with a Kingdom and it was a black outline printed on a white shirt and one of the crafts was to color it with paint!  Puffy paint! Now that is SO 90's!  What's even more 90's is that everyone wore them around in public that summer. 

As far as I can tell, Ben has enjoyed VBS and seeing his friend every night and I haven't heard any behavior reports so it must be going well.  I guess this means we have to commit to a church and get him in Sunday School in the fall which means my long span of church attendance slacking will have to end. 

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