My husband, Howard, and I are lay ministers (officially titled SAMs–Synodically Authorized Ministers) at a small country church in northern Wisconsin. Actually, it’s a red brick schoolhouse. The original church was just across the road and it burned down from a lightening strike in 1969. The congregation purchased the two-room school house, remodeled it, and kept right on with worship services. We’re surrounded on the north and west sides by a corn field and cow pasture. Pine trees grow in the yard where we plant red geraniums around the church sign on Pentecost Sunday.
One of the neat items from the fire is, they picked up pieces of stained glass windows out of the burned ruins, put them in sort of an epoxy in the shape of a 4-foot cross that hangs behind the altar. A small light illuminates this touching remembrance.
Each year, about eight adults, along with some high schoolers, plan and implement a VBS that begins on Thursday afternoon, the second weekend in August, and finishes on Sunday morning with worship and a short program by the classes and their teachers. Last year this was followed by a pig roast/potato salad/pot-luck fantastic meal for the community. Left-overs were taken in to the small town about five miles away the next day and sold at the local convenience store.
The unique part of this VBS is that children come on Thursday afternoon with their sleeping bags and tents, get set up in the church yard and sleep there for the three nights. We have a shower in the church basement (how many churches have that feature?!), so everyone can freshen up and the girls can do their hair! The church secretary, who is one of the planners, takes the towels home when she leaves at night, washes and dries them, so they are ready to go again the next day.
Meals are planned and cooked right there so everyone is at least offered a balanced meal. There is no charge for this whole thing. Church members sign up to bring food and we always have enough to last into the winter months!
It has been a great time, not without problems and changes in plans.
Last year, on Thursday, the weather was almost stifling, temp in 90′s and no breeze. A farmer and his two boys found window air conditioners they installed; we all brought fans and the kids slept in the church proper. Pews were moved all around so there was a good sized area in the middle of the room for them to sleep. The next night we had a terrific thunder and lightening rain storm so they didn’t sleep out side Friday, and no one wanted to go through the work of setting up tents for just the one night, Saturday. Sunday was sunny and windy, but we we all had jackets on because it was cold! Good old Wisconsin weather – it changes dramatically!
Plans for this year are underway and we look forward to challenges and delights in 2011!