I am so ignorant! Because I spent a week every summer at a Southern Baptist VBS (Vacation Bible School) when I was growing up, I assumed that VBS was dreamed up somewhere in the South, probably by a kind, old Baptist preacher man. Boy, was I wrong!
Vacation Bible School was actually dreamed up by a woman named D.T. Miles, a Sunday School and public school teacher in Hopedale, Illinois. Her first summer Bible School, in 1894, enrolled 40 students and lasted 4 weeks.
In 1898, Eliza Hawes, director of the children’s department at Epiphany Baptist Church in New York City, rented a beer parlor on the East Side and started the “Everyday Bible School” during the summer months.
Dr. Robert Boville of the Baptist Missionary Society heard about Eliza Hawes’ summer program and recommended it to churches. During one summer, his program enrolled 1,000 students in 5 different schools. He founded the World Association of Daily Vacation Bible School in 1922.
At Johnson Chapel, VBS lasted one week and was held in the mornings. We had arts and crafts, Bible stories, and singing. “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” were sung at the top of our lungs. We had accompanying pictures of Native American, Oriental, African and Caucasian children. I loved those pictures! Jesus loved children who didn’t look a thing like me! Boy, was He a swell guy!
And then there was ‘snack time’… Oreo cookies, Nehi Grape and Orange sodas in ice-cold glass bottles! What a treat on a hot summer morning!
If you go online to the Georgetown County Digital Library and click on ‘Andrews Museum Collection,’ then search for ‘Vacation Bible School,’ you’ll find two photos that will warm your heart.
The first is a photo of VBS students on the steps of Trinity United Methodist Church c.1950. There are at least 80 children in attendance, and their teachers are pictured in those wonderful ‘Fifties’ dresses.
The next is a photo, c.1940, of VBS students on the steps of Andrews Baptist Church with names identifying the children. I love that many of them are bare-footed, as it should be in the summertime.
By the way, you can also view these photos at the Andrews Old Town Hall Museum, a fascinating place to visit.
One of the most successful VBS programs I know of today is held at Saints Delight Pentecostal Holiness Church at 8285 Saints Delight Road near Andrews and pastored by Chris Browder. Their VBS started last Sunday evening and ended last night.
They invite everybody from the community and beyond, and cater to the entire family. They have classes and activities for newborns through adults, and last summer averaged nearly 400 people a night. Besides the usual activities, they have an awesome drama program written and directed by Stacy Hardee that features a different segment each night.
Okay, this is a rural church situated in Lamberttown, a community known for its hospitality and good down-home cookin’. If you attend VBS at Saints Delight, you’ll be fed an amazing meal by some of the community’s finest cooks. Saints Delight VBS feeds your heart, your soul, and your stomach.
To VBS everywhere … thanks for the memories!
I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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