Last week, I was reminiscing about Sunday school with one of my former Sunday school teachers. Living in the town you were raised in has lots of benefits, one of them being able to chat with teachers from Sunday school, elementary school or high school now and then.
Of course the down side to that is that many of them have excellent memories and will often bring up incidents that best remain buried in the past. Often though, they will get me confused with other students who had participated in nefarious activities.
Sunday school was law in our home. Our church was Sharon United in Murrayville and the Sunday school started at 9 a.m., followed by the full church service at 10. We left the house at 8:30 and got home sometime around noon and there was no way to get out of it.
There were always arrangements made to get us there. One or more Sunday school teachers would make sure we had a ride. We would either walk down the road to Tom Farquhar’s house and pile into his car or Sam Martin would stop by on his way from Willoughby. I used to like riding with Sam. He drove an immaculate 1936 Chevrolet sedan, and I loved the way that car smelled inside.
There are many memories of the small cubicles in the basement, the bright coloured wooden stools and of course the lessons. We were tasked with learning the books of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer and many other beatitudes and psalms. We had to memorize them all and recite them for our teachers.
In the early 1800s, Sunday school was developed as an attempt to educate the poor children who worked all week. In 1913, Dr. George W. Bailey, president of the World’s Sunday School Association, wrote that the goal of the Sunday school was to, “put the open Bible into the open hand of every opening heart.”
It was also a great social event. One day we were to bring a friend that normally didn’t come to Sunday school. We had a boy with us from a ‘well-to-do family’ and he shocked us all by putting a 50-cent piece in the collection plate. We tried to tell him that was too much, only dimes, nickels or pennies were required, and when one of our group tried to make change, he got caught taking money from the collection plate.
Senators Wallin and Duffy would not have survived the ensuing inquiry by the head of the Sunday school. We learned that collection plate money was for God’s work, not ours.
After classes were over, we joined Mom and Dad for the church service. The church was hot in the summer and cold in the winter until the oil stove kicked in and baked everyone within a ten-foot radius. Our fidgeting was controlled by Mom and big sister. Dad would have done so, but he had usually dozed off by the time the sermon began.
Back then there were over 100 kids at Sunday school. Today there’s only a handful. The Bible stories are competing with soccer, hockey, baseball, and events for all causes, as well as Sunday shopping.
There are many reasons for failing attendance, but let’s be honest. Most of us just quit telling our kids they had to go to Sunday school. What we sew, so shall we reap. At least that’s what McGregor says.