Come to Bible School, come to Bible school, every evening of the week, come to Bible school . . . Always be on time, always be on time . . .
Watermelon, Hires homemade root beer floats, and swimming in a farm pond with mud on the bottom, squishy between our toes – form sweet summer memories in my Lancaster County childhood of the 1950s. And along with all that, Bible School at Bossler Mennonite Church.
For two weeks every summer, joyful voices sang lustily as children proceeded up the center aisle of Bossler Mennonite Church, anticipating an evening at summer Bible School.
What Happened There
Bible stories were the centerpiece, and we learned them by seeing, hearing, and doing.
Flannelgraph pieces, with the story of the good shepherd (for example, The Ninety and Nine) magically adhered to a flannelbackground. Anna Longenecker, My dad’s first cousin, knew how to create suspense in her storytelling.
I remember pasting images of Jacob’s Ladder and the Angels, Samson and Delilah, and the Samaritan Woman at the Well into my lesson book, matching the picture’s straight edge with the black rectangular line on the page. One year John Kraybill, our deacon, was my teacher.
As we learned, plain square-paned windows in the church, open to admit a sweet breeze, sometimes picked up a trace of tractor sound in the distance.
We Memorized Scripture
We learned to recite (in order) the books of the Bible in both testamants, the New Testament, easier to memorize.
Several of the New Testament books had two or three parts: Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Peter and John. We learned a song about the names of the New Testament in order set to a musical tune.
But the minor prophets of the Old Testamant were tricky. No one had invented a song about these tongue twisters: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. No books in this line up either began with vowels to form an acrostic or create a tune..
Some were Champions
Cousin Reba Longenecker (Crill) has told me she worked all day long in a Bible memorization contest, memorizing a total of 300-400 verses. Arlene Garber (Kliewer) often won prizes. Joyce Garber (Schultz) and my sister Jan Longenecker (Caverly) were champions too.
A Bible sword drill was a competition designed to see who could be the first to find the exact Bible passage the leader called out. Viewing the Bible as the Christian’s defense against evil, contestants vied to locate the chapter and verse the leader called out. The thing I remember most about sword drills in Bible school is nimble fingers scrambling to find the passage and complete silence except for the frantic flipping of pages.
Bible School as Ceremony
Bible school had all the features of a ceremony: a processional, a presentation, art exercise, and eventually a recessional back down the aisle.
When Bible school ended, we sang, “Our Bible School is over and we are going home, goodbye, goodbye, be always kind and true, goodbye, goodbye, . . . .
Bible School in the City . . . a Country Sunday School
My Sunday school class enjoying mellow, fall weather at Bossler Mennonite Church
If such an experience is new to you, what stands out as your read this?
Why do you think the Bible School at Bossler Mennonite was held in the evening, and not during the day?
If you participated in Bible School, share your memories. Please add your name to the list of Bossler people who remember VBS.