Wonder, Love and Praise
As I write this, the halls outside my office are filled with the sounds of children’s voices of varying pitches and tones. This is Vacation Bible School week, and I love VBS! Honestly, beyond supporting the staff and the volunteers, my role is almost non-existent which allows me to watch the children sing, hear stories, make crafts and play. In short, they are able to be children while learning about the faith we hope to pass on to them.
In his book, Will Our Children Have Faith, Episcopal priest John Westerhoff writes, “Shared experience, story telling, celebration, action, and reflection among equal “faithing” selves within a community of faith best help us to understand how faith is transmitted, expanded and sustained.”
Vacation Bible School is a condensed version of our lives as “faithing” people. We pack a lot into a week, hoping and praying that the rhythm of VBS can make fertile the rich soil of children’s lives. Their voices and their energy suggest that they are happy to be here. Honestly, I wish we had an adult VBS.
While I am unsure as to how many grownups would sign up for a week of VBS, I am convinced that we would do well to remember those who helped shape our faith as children. In our childhood neighborhood, a Methodist minister and a Baptist pastor lived nearby. Either seeking salvation for my wayward soul or in seeking some peace and quiet, my parents shipped my twin brother and me to both weeks of VBS at their respective churches. The bonus, we were picked up by these two men and had a chauffeured ride to each church.
I still remember many experiences of those summer weeks spent in VBS at Mineral Wells Methodist and Immanuel Baptist. Lots of school friends, singing, games, crafts and the end of the week presentation to our captive parents. I even remember some of the Bible stories, specific lessons and songs. However, what stands out in my mind, and perhaps why I have such clear recollection, is the care and warmth of those two clergy persons. When we got in the car to come home, each would ask us what we learned, what we enjoyed and what meant something to us. I did not feel threatened by their questions, I don’t think they had any other agenda than to be genuinely curious, and they knew that if we could recall something from the experience, that goodness might just stay with us.
Of course, they were correct. Our role as adults in the faith community is less about indoctrination, than about creating experiences for our children, and ourselves to experience God’s presence in the faith of those around us. Children, and adults, learn by participation in all aspects of expressing our faith, singing, praying, laughing, crying and sharing the experience with others. In the same way one learns an art such as ballet or playing an instrument, in the same way one learns how to play softball or soccer, participation and practice is required, not just to attain the right skills but to maintain the best form.
Seeds will only grow if they are cultivated. Children will become people of faith when we tend to their spiritual lives. Frankly, this is true for adults as well. I pray that this summer will be a growing season for each of us. Our individual vitality will depend on our dependence on the community around us as we commit to participating in all the ways we express our faith. I look forward to hearing your voices filled with joy in wonder, love and praise.