I was astounded to drive by one of the 300 tiny little churches that have homes in the middle of Kentucky and see a big banner advertising their upcoming Vacation Bible School theme “Adventures In The Promised Land!” For those of you who do not know, churches no longer put together their own programs for Vacation Bible School, they just buy the kit at the Vacation Bible School Store, and the kit includes banners, props, costumes, workbooks, and pretty much everything except volunteers to run the programs.
I was astounded, because many, many years ago, when I went to Vacation Bible School, in the very early years when they’d first started selling Vacation Bible School through Vacation Bible School Stores, the theme for my one and only adventure in holy summer school was, you guessed it, “Adventures In The Promised Land!”
The very first day of Vacation Bible School, the Preacher Himself came down in the basement where the kids had Sunday school and Youth Fellowship and all the assorted youth activities that were available even in those olden times, because you want to keep the little rug rats out of the main sanctuary where they might break something or track in dirt or throw up.
He stands in front of our little mini-church, on the mini-alter, and begins his introduction to the program:
“This week, children, we’re going to take you on a great adventure of the imagination. Only this isn’t imaginary, it’s real! The Promised Land is Real! It’s Heaven! But since you only go to Heaven after you die, you’ll have to use your imaginations to go on these grand adventures we have planned for you, to give you some idea how groovy Heaven is!” (I told you this was ancient history – preachers actually thought it was ok to use the word Groovy at this particular point in time.)
So I spoke up, immediately, having no idea that a Preacher was supposed to be treated with the same level of respect as a Teacher and that I should raise my hand first: “So, Preacher, What’s our first adventure today?”
He smiled at me, but you could tell he didn’t mean it, I guess because I had interrupted his overly enthusiastic, very rehearsed opening speech. “Today, our first adventure, as Angels In Heaven, is we’re going to learn how to Sing Praises to God Almighty!”
The entire room yawned collectively and in unison. That’s all we Ever did in kids church, sing and sing and sing about God and Jesus and Christian Soldiers but never about Mary because we were Not Catholic and they were idol worshipers.
So I blurted out once more: “So what is our adventure on the Second day of Vacation Bible School?”
“We’re going to learn how to sing even More Praises to God Almighty!” says he.
“When do we learn how to fly?” I asked.
“What on earth do you mean?” says he.
“Angels have wings. When do we learn how to fly?”
The old fart actually laughed at me, in front of 30 other little kids, which is a horrible thing to do to a 9-year old, and then he said “Angels have wings, but they don’t fly. They just have wings to be beautiful because beauty glorifies God!”
“What the f**k is the use of having wings if you don’t get to fly?” says I.
My mother was immediately called to come get me and take me home and please, never bring me back, which was a huge scandal in that tiny little town, to be essentially excommunicated at nine years old, but I had a much better week playing by myself in the woods behind my house than I think I could possibly have ever had in Vacation Bible School.