“2010 VBS: PRAISE PARTY @ THE CHAPEL”
FITZGERALD, GEORGIA – JUNE 19, 2010: Vacation Bible School has traditionally been one of the most effective outreach programs a church can have. Recent studies show that about half the children who come to VBS have no regular church home. It is no wondering that each year, the children look forward to Vacation Bible School @ The Chapel. This past week, the teachers and staff welcomed 75+ young people to a five-day PRAISE PARTY which ended on Friday, June 18th with a Closing Ceremony at 11:00 a.m. “Our VBS was open to everyone in the community who wanted to join with us,” said Sunday School Superintendent Derrick Frazier. “Year after year we see a good number of newcomers and returning VBS kids who remember the good time they enjoyed the year before.”
Children, teachers, staff, and helpers joined together each morning at 8:30 a.m. for a hot breakfast and three hours of bible study, history lessons, drama, arts and craft, music, and other activities. The curriculum was the third segment of a curriculum created by Abingdon Press, an imprint of The United Methodist Publishing House. The series progressed from “Walk It Out” in 2008, to “On the Move” last year, and this year, “Praise Party.” “Praise Party” is a heritage-based Christian education curriculum that had our community celebrating the saving grace of Jesus Christ with head, heart, hands, feet, and SOUL! Through Bible study, crafts, skits, movement, contemporary music, and well-loved hymns and songs of the African-American Church, Praise Party created passionate worship that introduced the young people to actionable faith. Each day there was a SOUL Goal, Memory Verse, Bible Story, song writer feature, and plenty of PRAISE songs.
The members of the VBS leadership team were pleasantly surprised when on the weekend before the first day, there were 63 children pre-registered online using the church’s website. “This annual event is important because it enables our youth to participate in a safe, fun, enriching spiritual environment,” said Charles Coney, Director of Christian Education. “It’s a lot of work, but we look forward to it.” Teachers met after the Sunday Worship service to decorate classrooms, get activities ready, and transform the sanctuary to the traditional hip-hop, high-tech arena geared for high-energy and plenty of movement. In reflection, Coney said, “Music took center stage in this year’s curriculum, so we (Church Director of Music, Annie Pearl Stepherson and I) became more than just Music & Activity Teachers, but consultants to the other teachers providing background on the daily selections. In total, the young people were introduced to three hymns, learned the origins of six gospel songs, and danced to twelve praise songs.”
Holsey Chapel has been offering Vacation Bible School to area children for many decades. “This is a very exciting and dynamic outreach ministry for our church,” the pastor, Rev. Marvin J. Howard said. “It has really become a popular summer destination for children who attend our church as well as those who do not.” Consistent with previous years, “Praise Party” allowed the Bible school students to learn in several interactive ways. Crews of children rotated through four different stations: Hip-Hop Sanctuary for Music & Activity, Bible Study with re-enacted stories from the Scriptures, Heritage & Drama which introduced the children to the historical African-American singers like Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, and Lucie Campbell, and Arts & Craft with Rev. Rosia Jackson where they made memorable keepsakes from their VBS adventures. Each day ended with a recap of the focus lesson from the wise storyteller of the village, returning Griot Jim Turner and his assistant Griot Gloria Smith-Cook.
“We want to change lives by building relationships with God, each other and the world.” Coney said, “Relationship is a key product that the church has to offer. The church should build relationships better than anyone else. That’s really why we do it—we want children to learn to embrace the love of God and each other just the way we have.” A group of about 30 teachers and volunteers led the children through the stations. Christian Youth Fellowship Director Alice Blount said, “Many times, leaders ask the kids if they remember what they learned throughout the week, and they do. When it sticks in their brains and we know that we have accomplished our mission.” Children’s Church Director Susie Howard reminded parents during the Closing Ceremony on Friday that this type of learning occurs each Sunday at The Chapel during Children’s Church. The young people begin worship with the adults and leave mid-service for age-appropriate meditations and lessons complimenting what is occurring in the adult service. She commented, “I want to see our children fueled with passion for Jesus. They are never too young to understand the positive difference that He can make in their young lives.”
A featured highlight of the school was Friday’s Closing Ceremony when parents, relatives, and well-wishers were invited to an 11:00 a.m. service. Over forty adults got in the grove and moved to the “Praise Party” reflecting on the five key words of the week: Sacrifice, Celebration, Shalom, Salvation, and Song. They were captivated by the class presentations which included praise dances, singing, recitations, and skits. Each child received a certificate at the closing. Teachers selected their STAR students and the Nutrition Team was once again recognized for providing everyone with a hot breakfast and lunch.
The origins of Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Sunday School teacher D. T. Miles, who also was a public school teacher, felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school to teach children during the summer. The first Bible school enrolled forty students and lasted four weeks.
Holsey Chapel is proud to follow in this legacy and anxiously awaits the 2011 VBS Theme which will be revealed by Cokesbury Publishing on July 1, 2010. Additional information and pictures can be found on our church website at www.cmefitzgerald.org .
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