I used to know a guy who always used acronyms when he talked. I thought that was really mean, especially to folks who had no idea what he was talking about, but since he didn't much seem to care what I thought, I just kept it to myself. For the three or four of you who read this blog, I imagine that you know that VBS stands for Vacation Bible School.
When I was a child, VBS was one of the highlights of the summer. The first time I remember anything at all about that summer highlight, I remember going to a VBS picnic and getting to ride in the pastor's motorboat. I cannot to this day imagine my mother, who was afraid of water, would take me out on that thing, but she did.
VBS really was something in my home town. All the churches had their schools the same week, at the same time, so you didn't get to church hop from one VBS to another, like kids do today. They always kicked off with a bicycle parade through town. All the kids (and probably many of their parents) spent a lot of time decorating bikes for the parade. I remember my main goal with my bike was to make it to the whole end of the parade and not to have to drop out somewhere along the way because I couldn't pedal any more. It wasn't until I grew to adulthood and David tried riding my bike, that I found out it wasn't ME who couldn't make the trip, it was the bike--it wasn't ride-able. It looked good enough, but even Charles Atlas would have a hard time pedalling it up a hill--I don't mean a MOUNTAIN, I mean a hill, just a little old hill!!
Back to VBS. In the olden days, we went for a full two weeks, from 9:00 in the morning until 12:00 noon. Ladies, rejoice. Now we only go for one week, 2 hours a day, and one of those days is commencement! So we have gone from 30 hours to 8. We've lost a lot along the way, though. There isn't time for the traditional opening exercises. I remember all the kids trooping in by departments, sitting with their teachers, little ones trying so hard to say the pledges and being so proud when they could do all three (American flag, Christian flag, Bible). Now they have that stuff up on the screen and everyone just reads it off. We sang a different song for each pledge--that much is still the same. Then the little folks would troop out, and those of us from the age of 8 or 9 up through at least middle school would stay for the anthem, a lengthy Bible passage to memorize, the offering, and some sort of mission story or sermonette. Anybody besides me out there remember the chalktalks?
In the classes after the opening exercises, we would have an Old Testament story and a New Testament story. In the Junior department, we would work furiously to learn the books of the Bible, all 66, in order. It seems like we had a mission story--I loved the foreign mission stories! And then there were the handcrafts. Granny always worked on the handcrafts. It would almost always involve a daytime trip into downtown Louisville to buy some sort of craft material. Once it was postage-stamp size ceramic tiles; another time it was peach baskets. For a long time, we had one of those peach baskets on top of a kitchen cabinet here at the house. A third time, the Juniors made waste baskets out of ice cream buckets. Mike pasted baseball cards all over his--don't you know he regretted that later, when he found out what things like Mickey Mantle's rookie card was worth!
There were two great closing rituals at our church. One was the VBS picnic. At the beginning, we VBSers went to Cherokee Park in Louisville, but later we started staying in town and making it a family affair. My best friend's father was in charge of cooking the chicken. We had the picnic at the county fair grounds, and he would have a group of inmates dig a barbecue pit(he worked at the penitentiary). The chickens would be quartered and would cook all day on that pit. The Brotherhood (those of you who didn't grow up Baptist might not realize that was the men of the church) would supervise the cooking. My dad always prided himself on being the one who came up with the bright idea of using children's mops to put the BBQ sauce on the chickens. Only God knows what they did before that.
The second ritual was the commencement. Each age group would get up and perform, reciting Bible verses, singing songs, the Juniors saying the books of the Bible--and all of us girls went through the four-year-old stage of showing our panties to the world! After that, the parents would go for a tour of the classrooms to see the work we had done and to check out our workbooks--yes, we had VBS workbooks! Then it was all over until the next year.
Tonight was the first night of VBS at Georgetown Baptist. Now all the VBSes around us are themed. Ours is something about Time Travel, with an emphasis on learning the 10 commandments. We have a really neat "ark of the covenant" on display at the front of the church, with marble-slab ten commandments inside. There is a window so that we can see them. I was really impressed with the work--it looks great. Turns out the local monument maker carved the commandments on the old marble slab that used to cover the baptistry, and George W made the ark. He was going to stain the wood (looks like a first-class coffin), but he and Paula did a little research and saw that it was supposed to be overlaid with gold, so they gilded it. Like I said, it looks great. I told Paula to keep her hands off it! We don't want to lose our VBS director the same way David lost Uzziah!
I went in tonight intending to register kids and then come home, but instead, I'm helping Eddie with the first-graders. Tonight we were in the medeival castle (also known as the office suites, but now with a drawbridge and moat). Tomorrow night we will be in a Mayan jungle. The other destinations include a mad scientist's laboratory, a hawk's nest, and a volcano. All I have to do is help with crowd control. At one time tonight there were five adults and ten children, so crowd control isn't much of an issue. Things have surely changed!
I'll report more on VBS later this week. Good night, and God bless.