Innovative Ideas

Two Little Rock VBSs Find Success with Fresh Approaches

FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, Christ Church in Little Rock and St. Luke’s in North Little Rock have teamed up to co-host a vacation Bible School. This year’s theme is “Go in Peace,” derived from the deacon’s dismissal at the end of the church service: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

“The whole concept is to teach children how to walk through their days in all different ways and remember that peace is with them,” said Patricia Matthews, director of children youth and family ministries at Christ Church.

Christ Church VBS 2014

There are about 60 kids, 10 youth helpers, and 20 adults at vacation Bible school this year. Most of the Episcopal churches in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Maumelle are represented, as well as Dorcas House, a shelter for women and children.

The children rotate through several sessions, which all relate to the theme of peace. Each day, there is a Bible story, led by the Rev. Joanna Seibert, that focuses on the different ways that Jesus showed a path of peace. And a music session, led by Beth Maze, where the children learn songs about peace. Stephannie Baker is leading a yoga class to help kids remember that how they move through the day, literally, affects their sense of peace. And a cooking class, led by Sarah Olney, allows participants to try out healthy, kid-friendly recipes and make their own booklet of recipes to take home.

And then there are the seed balls, a guerilla-gardening project led by Kyle Holton.

“The way we relate to God’s creation can also bring us peace,” Matthews said. “When you’re out in nature, when you’re gardening, when you’re working with the dirt, you often find a sense of peace. So we’re taking seeds”—flowers, mustard greens, turnips, clover—”and wrapping them up in clay, and we’re going to go out for a big walk around our downtown neighborhood and throw seed balls into abandoned areas so that turnips and flowers and clover will grow up unexpectedly.”

Ultimately, this vacation Bible school all about remembering peace and taking it out into the world, said Matthews. She recounted a story that Joyce Hardy, deacon at Christ Church, had told earlier in the week. Early in her ministry as a deacon, Hardy forgot the words to the dismissal at the end of service. She remembered, “Go in peace,” and then all she could think to say was, “Go in love,” and then she said, “Just go.”

“This idea that we ‘just go,'” said Matthews, “that we go out into the world to share our peace with others—it’s not something we keep for ourselves—is something we’re trying to instill in the kids.”

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A MILE AWAY, Trinity Cathedral is hosting its annual Cathedral Camp this week, too. This year, for the first time, it is being held in the evening. Families are encouraged to attend together and bring a picnic supper to enjoy on the grounds beforehand.

The theme for this year’s Cathedral Camp is “Babylonian Bluesfest,” the sixth and final year in a cycle that takes children through stories in the Old Testament.

Cathedral Camp 2014

“They hear the story,” said Dawn Howe, Christian formation coordinator at Trinity, “they sing it, they dance it, they act it out, they eat it—all the snacks are associated with the lesson for that evening.”

“We started yesterday with Elijah and Elisha,” said Anne Pollard, director of this year’s Cathedral Camp, and so the snacks were Flaming Cheetos and Red Hots (references to the chariot of fire).

“Today, we’re talking about Daniel,” said Pollard, both the writing on the wall episode and the lion’s den. The snacks were all brick-like – stacks of crackers, a wall made of Rice Krispies treats. The crafts also relate to the story and this night they were crafting lion’s faces from paper plates and yarn, and writing secret messages on paper using lemon juice.

There is also a service project component related to the story, she explained. “There’s some ‘writing on the wall’ in the parking areas, and so we’re going to remove some of that.”

The rest of the week will cover other Old Testament stories—the exile and return, Queen Esther—and then on Sunday morning children will sing the Gospel pieces they have learned this week learned for the entire congregation.

Another innovation this year is that Cathedral Camp is parishwide. The adults have their own class, led by the Rev. Christoph Keller, and are talking about the same stories as the children. It has been a success with 15–20 children, 8–10 teenage helpers, and 35–40 adults attending.

“The adults get to come do art, if they want,” said Pollard. And the Rice Krispies treats are for everyone.

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Does your congregation have a vacation Bible school? If so, what are some of your innovative ideas? Share them in the comments below.