Would you send your child to an evangelical Vacation Bible School?

U.S. Catholic’s Bryan Cones fondly remembers the summers he spent at Vacation Bible School with the Baptist and Methodist kids of Knoxville, Tennessee. These early experiences made him a better Catholic, he says.  Plus, he even beat the Baptists at Bible Baseball.

I grew up in the One True Church: Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Father Albert Henkel as my pastor. If you asked Father Henkel, all other churches were merely progressively lesser copies of the One True Church at Hinton Street and Central Avenue—beginning with Immaculate Conception about a mile and a half away, which, after all, was staffed by Paulists. The Baptists, Methodists, and other assorted Protestants were a further distance still.

Everyone who went to Holy Ghost agreed with Father Henkel that we went to the One True Church, but when summer came and despite the obvious danger to our souls, our good Catholic mothers still sent us to lesser churches for the religious equivalent of summer camp: Vacation Bible School, usually referred to simply as VBS. And it wasn’t run by those zany Paulists at Immaculate Conception.

Every Protestant church in town had a VBS. My favorite was at Beaverbrook Baptist Church (best cookies and punch), but the Methodists and Presbyterians could stage a mean Bible camp themselves. And even though not a single one of them was held at a Catholic parish, I count those summer weeks as among the most important in my religious formation. In fact I think every Catholic kid should go to VBS at least once in their life.  Read the article and take the quick survey

Photo from GC Communication

2 Responses

  1. I too was sent to the local Methodist Church for VBS. I’m not sure the Methodist Ladies appreciated the unruly Catholic kids, but as children of a Catholic father and Methodist mother, it was Mom’s way of exposing us to her faith. As a family, we attended the Catholic Church in a neighboring town, (I grew up in a rural area). Being Catholic was kind of like being African American at a Klan Convention in our rural community. Most people attended the Baptist, Methodist, Fee Methodist or Unitarian Churches. It was at these VBS that I learned that the Bible was something to be read and studied, not just the source of Sunday liturgy. I am a much better practicing Catholic today because of my exposure to other religions as a child. I’m also a more open minded Catholic and grew up believing that as long as you believed in God and did not violate basic rules of humanity, it didn’t matter where you worshiped on Sunday or Saturday for that matter. Our final tribute to our Methodist mother was to see that she had a Methodist funeral this past December.

  2. I went to VBS growing up also and loved it. Now our Catholic church has a vacation bible school that is Catholic! It’s just as fun but with all Catholic teachings. I wish I had this opportunity when I was a kid.

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