Old-Time Tradition: Some Warren County churches returning to in-person vacation Bible school

Published 8:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2021

For many children in Warren County, summer means an opportunity to participate in a long-standing tradition practiced by many area churches — vacation Bible school.

Children gather at church fellowship halls or gyms where they participate in different activities and listen to stories from the Bible to help them better understand their faith and how Christianity impacts their lives.

But in 2020, the way churches and children participated in vacation Bible school changed. The COVID-19 pandemic forced churches to re-evaluate their plans for the annual summer programs because of concern over the spread and effect of the disease.

Some churches canceled vacation Bible school, while others used services like Facebook and other video outlets to present virtual programs where children were mailed packets for crafts and other activities and participated by watching teachers through a computer.

A check of some local churches indicated that they are going back to in-person programs. Jeanie McVoy, vacation Bible school director at Trinity Baptist Church, however, said vacation Bible school for Trinity’s children will again be virtual.

“We just want to make sure that our children and adults are safe so we felt it would be best to do it virtually again this year,” she said.

McVoy said parents send her reservation cards for the number of children who will be participating at home and she prepares packets with craft supplies and everything necessary for the children.

Vacation Bible school, she said, “Can be anytime in the summer because it’s virtual. We are in the process of videotaping our Bible stories right now so hopefully, very soon we’ll be ready to go.”

Joan Thornton, a theology teacher at St. Aloysius High School and vacation Bible school director for the city’s three Catholic Churches, said vacation Bible school is July 19 through 23 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and will be in-person. The theme is “Camping in God’s Creation” and it will be held at the St. Aloysius gym and cafeteria.

She said 56 children are already registered for the program, adding the school gym is the “ideal facility for the location; we’re already set up for COVID guidelines.”

The program, Thornton said, will be a peer ministry with the older students teaching the participants from Kindergarten through grade 6. She said the children will be divided into groups, or “cabins,” each with two younger teens serving as counselors.

If there are not enough students, she said, Vicksburg Catholic School teachers have volunteered to teach the lessons.

Thornton said Catholic children have participated in vacation Bible school for about 30 years since the program began at St. Michael Catholic Church, and the location alternated between St. Michael’s and St. Paul Catholic Church. She said the idea to use the facilities at St. Aloysius came from a discussion in her freshman theology class.

Diane Liddell, director of children’s ministry at First Presbyterian Church, said the church is partnering with Crawford Street United Methodist Church.

“We’re doing vacation Bible school like it should be — in person,” she said.

The theme for this year’s school is “Jesus King of Kings,” based on Philippians 2:10 in the Bible, and will be held June 14 through 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at Crawford Street UMC.

The churches will use a marketplace scenario that has been used at previous vacation Bible schools.

Crawford Street, Liddell said, has a large area to accommodate the marketplace.

“It’s set back in biblical times,” she said. “All the children are divided into tribes — the 12 tribes of Israel, and they wear matching tunics. They have a leader and we try to do things much like it was back in those times. There’s a market and they can go in and do things. It’s set up as authentically as possible.”

June 16, she said, will be an animal day featuring goats, chickens and a camel is expected to visit.

 “We’re so glad to be able to get back to in-person and have all the kids there,” Liddell said. “It’s just a wonderful time to learn about Jesus in a fun way during the summer.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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