Monday, August 8, 2016

Vee Bee Ess

I sat in my office as they arrived, pulling into the gravel lot of our little church, and wondered about going out to say hello.

I was going to, of course, but having spent much of the day in the unairconditioned church office, I was...well...a little stickier than I tend to like to be around folks.  But before I could get moving, one or two arrived at my office to say hello or to ask questions.

They were bearing crafts and guitars and planning materials, because this was Vacation Bible School, being run as our little community runs it.

And we do it different, being the little church we are.

VBS has never quite felt like a thing for me, perhaps because it was never part of my life growing up.  Worship and singing and Sunday School, sure.  But Vacation Bible School just wasn't something that Presbyterian churches in Nairobi, Kenya did back in the early 1970s.  It didn't play into the life of an English Free Church in the late seventies and early eighties in a London suburb.  And it wasn't part of the dynamic of a downtown commuter social justice church in the late 1980s.

And yet, here it is, a ubiquitous part of the expectation for American church life.   It's just a part of the summer, like swim team or soccer camp or any one of the ways we manage the time of our children now that they're generally not called upon to help with the harvest.

So much VBS is neatly packaged, carefully constructed to appeal to the bustling suburbanite.  Every year, the ads arrive for the VBS packages.  There are the ubiquitous cartoon characters, each professionally created.  There are often tie-ins with whatever blockbuster movie is anticipated for release, to the point where it wouldn't surprise me if there was a Suicide Squad-knockoff VBS theme.  "Cain, Jezebel, Goliath, Ramses and Judas: Five Lessons from The Villainous Five."

Huh.  That....actually...might be kind of cool.  Seriously.  Cain, the undying, bitter and lost.  Jezebel, fierce and terrible and selfishly cunning.  Goliath, massive and Hulkish, all about power and brutality.  Dude.  It'd work.  And then Ramses could be...but I'm getting off topic.

What I love about our little VBS in our little church is that it is none of those things.  We go hard core amateur, meaning it's a labor of love.  There are straight up crafts.  Guitars.  Simple themes that relate to God's love.  It's designed, planned, and implemented by church members, feeling more like the games played at a traditional family gathering than a pre-packaged commodity.

And what amazes me, every year when I pop in to observe the singing and smell the paint, is just how natural it all feels.  How organic.

In this era when everything is packaged and marketed and you can teach kids about Jesus for the low low price of $199.99* there's something refreshing about that.

*starter kit only, please check your catalog for pricing