Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
God bless Sunday school teachers
Word has come to me of the passing of my first grade Sunday school teacher, Nan Bond Murphy Mooney, formerly of Cleveland, Miss. Even though she has lived for many years in Texas and Oklahoma, I still remembered her, as I do all my Sunday school teachers through the years.
I would imagine that Mrs. Murphy, as she was then, taught our little class because her son Lawrence was part of our group, as was her nephew Charles Glassco. Having said this, she had a handful, and I have listed only three. I could go on.
Not surprisingly I remember few specifics about the Bible lessons, although I do remember the pictures that the teachers used in that era. I always thought they were wonderful. One happy surprise when I came to Holly Springs was finding a complete set of all those pictures in a storage room at our church. I framed a great many of them and hung them on the walls of our Kirk House. Today’s Sunday school literature does not provide illustrations half as interesting.
I think what fascinated me about those old pictures (they came from the Providence Lithograph Co., in Rhode Island) was the way the artist would place boys and girls in typical 1950s church clothes right into the scenes with Bible characters in their ancient costumes! It made perfect sense to me as a child, and may be why I still identify so closely with those characters in the long ago.
One thing I absolutely remember about Mrs. Murphy’s Sunday school was the week when I was the only child in attendance. Everybody else must have been sick, for unless confined to bed or traveling, you came to Sunday school every Sunday, and many from our generation have the attendance pins to prove it! Even when we traveled, Mother or Daddy would go over our lesson, so we could get credit for attendance and not miss out on our pins.
Anyway, on the day I was the only child present for our class, Mrs. Murphy had class just for me, as if there was a whole room of children to be taught. Only she personalized the lesson and made me feel special. I was so honored by that experience I have never forgotten it.
I recently saw U.S. “Pete” Walker, who along with Mary Laura Barbour and John Yurkow, taught our group in junior high, and I told him that I was sure I owed him an apology. We were a “terrible” group, acting just like junior high kids — thinking we were much more sophisticated than we were — constantly “bored” and whispering among ourselves, volunteering thoughts that had nothing to do with the lesson but which were extremely humorous, or at least so it seemed to us. God bless anyone who volunteers to work with youth of that age.
Those three had a difficulty beyond just dealing with boisterous adolescents. I still remember my amazement when, well into our seminary course, I realized that the professor who was lecturing, and the textbook we were using, were one and the same with the book the Presbyterian Church saw fit to give us as junior high youth for our Sunday school studies. It was a rich text for seminary students; how on earth did the Christian education “experts” of our denomination expect teenagers to grasp such material? So a double-salute to the teachers who tried to fulfill such an ambitious plan sent down to them from on high!
I am deeply troubled by the changes in our culture that have de-emphasized the importance of religious education. I try every way I know how to encourage our Sunday school teachers, our church parents, and the children they nurture.
Does the fact that I was taken to Sunday school every week have anything to do with the fact I am a Christian and a minister now? Absolutely. Does the fact that my teacher in the first grade had a class just for me when I was the only child present have anything to do with the way I grew up? I believe it did. Seldom does a single experience shape the outcome of our lives, but it is a combination of a great many experiences that we point back to and say “this was God’s grace at work.”
Without any one of these experiences, we would be less. I would like to thank those who gave their time to teach me, and those, as well, who give their efforts to the rising generation. I have to believe a divine hand is active in such things.
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