VBS a good chance to get churches together

Joint Bible Schools seem to be popular around this area, a good solution if you’re a small church with only a few children in the congregation.

The ones I’ve noticed were all Presbyterian.

Back in June, there was Centre and Maxton paired with Midway, the big white church on the road from Laurinburg to Rowland.

Then there’s the one going on this week, bringing together children from Faith Church on Elm Avenue in town and Old Laurel Hill Church about 4 miles out of town.

The word this week from the Rev. Deck Guess, pastor at Laurel Hill, is that 32 kids and 13 adults reported for classes this week, with about 20 volunteers from the two churches. The school ran from 6-8 p.m. each day through Thursday.

A distinguishing feature was an adult class, taught by Dr. Bob Bedingfield, a retired military chaplain who moved to Scotia Village during the past year.

Those who have heard him preach or talk from the pulpit will understand why that adult class was popular. Also, the curriculum attracted some attention. It centered on the Apostle Peter, the man and the epistles that bare his name, but were not written by him. You know Peter. He’s that memorable follower of Jesus who sometimes painted himself into a corner by shooting off his mouth. A point of interest. Laurel Hill usually creates its own curriculum, according to the pastor.

I never feel “preached at” when Dr. Bedingfield takes to the pulpit or steps into the role of teacher. His is a sane, sound political theology with a crisp, clean almost academic presentation, but spoken with such fluency and purpose that you come away with something to remember.

Probably the largest Bible School in town is the one at Laurinburg Presbyterian that was held this week as well. A total of 44 church volunteers worked with an average daily attendance of 104 kids.

Coming up next week is the annual VBS at St. Luke United Methodist, 1501 Turnpike Road, where kids are scheduled to go on a “Jungle Safari.”

Publicity says prospective adventurers should grab their binoculars and hats and bring a lively imagination to join in the adventure.

Hours are from 5:30-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with dinner provided each evening. Average attendance in past years has been 50 to 60.

To register, contact the church at 910-276-6821 with child’s name, age and grade level.

Thinking about Bible School made me wonder what would happen if a black church and a white church decided to hold a joint Bible School.

Just think of the advantages, not only advancing understanding and appreciation across the racial divide, it would provide a cadre of talented teachers and leaders coupled with opportunity to work across church lines as well.

Such events have good fallout, like new friends, new people of faith to share the mission of bringing peace and harmony to our society, of addressing hunger and homelessness and of ending violence right here in our community.

Since that’s what life will be like in the Kingdom, why can’t we create a bit of it right here, right now?

Let’s go visiting

In Laurinburg, it appears churchgoers are generally dug in around their own church and there seems to be little curiosity and interest in discovering how other denominations and non-denominational Christian groups do things.

When I go church hopping, I always ask friends to accompany me, but rarely does anyone accept my invitation. I am not offended, however, because most of the time they say something like, “It would make me feel disloyal to my church,” or “I want to support my own church.” I try to understand, but this idea makes me nervous.

It’s sort of like considering “my church” as a team competing with similar teams in the league, when in reality our relationship with other churches should not show itself in competition, but in cooperation. Just because we exhibit differences in the way we understand and do ministry should not keep us from sharing our good news of God’s grace in a world ripe for redemption.

I believe there’s a lot of power yet to be tapped when Christians dare to believe”We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord.”

When I read Jesus’s prayer for his disciples in John 17, I always wonder, how do I grow in that understanding of oneness unless I know something about other Christian groups?

If your minister gets nervous when you say something about going visiting, tell him or her that you won’t forget to make your regular pledge to your home church and that if she or he continues to exert strong leadership and to offer sermons that make a difference in your life, you will surely be back in your regular pew next Sunday and in the coming months.

But, hey, let’s get acquainted!

Bow Wow and Meow

A national church magazine recently featured a cover story about churches that are responding to members for whom pets and other animals play an important role. In addition to the popular Blessing of the Animals offered by some liturgical churches to honor St. Francis, check out the following examples:

A church in Pittsburgh has begun regular memorial services for pets.

Another congregation offers a four-week class for training therapy dogs that can then be approved to visit hospitals and nursing homes.

Yet another co-sponsors an adoption fair for pets with the theme “We are equal parts of God’s creation.”

Here’s my favorite. A Los Angeles congregation has a weekly late afternoon service to which pets are welcome, accompanied by their owners. Dogs are served dog biscuits during the offertory.

And yet another unusual faith-related response to the burgeoning interest in pets in this country is a web site called “Pray for Pets” where prayer requests for animals may be posted.

Contact Flo Johnston at [email protected] or call 910-361-4135.

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