Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Vacation Bible School 6 (Last Installment in This Series)

When I was in high school, I played piano for the services of the Methodist Church in Pine Village, Indiana. When the organ was wanted instead, Mrs. Brutus played that instrument. In those years, young people in formal conversation and most newspapers addressed married women as “Mrs.” So Barbara was “Mrs. Glen J. Brutus.” (Many will remember Barbara Brutus as the secretary at the school in town. They may also recall her performances on the organ at Shipps Funeral Home in nearby Oxford.) In most instances, I remain unaware of the first names of the women that I politely referred to as “Mrs.” During Vacation Bible School, I played the piano for the children’s song sessions. Mrs. Tom Builta ably led the singing. Several girls of junior high or high school age assisted Mrs. Builta.

Bible School Class of 1966 Posing for My Camera

The kids loved to belt out “I will make you fishers of men” with a powerful emphasis on that swishing first syllable of “fishers.” Illustrative gestures were dutifully taught and learned. To demonstrate the fishing, the children cast an imaginary line and reeled in a fish. As the phrase “fishers of men” repeated five times, the kids caught a lot of fish!

“I’m inright outright upright downright happy all the time” was another favorite. The kids pointed toward their hearts, outwardly in front of them, up toward the ceiling, and down toward the floor. They clapped their hands on the first syllable of “happy.” As I have no talent for playing by ear (an expression that means using no music), I had obtained a Zondervan Publishing album of children’s songs, and, while playing along, I noticed that, through the oral tradition over the years, our church had developed variations on the standard lyrics now and then. The printed words “Since Jesus Christ came in / And took away my sin” were sung “Since Jesus Christ came in / And freed my life from sin.”

“The B–I–B–L–E: yes, that’s the book for me” was a short piece that the children launched into with raucous abandon. Back when I was a kid myself, I needed a year or two to realize that the sounds I was making spelled out the word “Bible.” I wonder how many kids were as puzzled as I was by the spelling lesson.

Other favorites included “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and “Zaccheus.” The kids pointed to the branches of an imaginary tree and shook their forefingers commandingly as they sang, “Zaccheus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today.”

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart!” sang the kids, nearly shouting the word “where” each time. When the lyrics moved on to “I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding,” the youngest singers were clearly bewildered, but they kept up by articulating sound-alike syllables, such as “piece-it pass-it under stand-it.”

If I close my eyes, I can still vividly see the rainbow hues of the stained glass windows casting prismatic patterns on the hardwood floor, I can yet distinctly hear the tick-tock of the Regulator clock hanging on the back wall, I can yet faithfully play the tall upright piano with its dark-toned cabinet, I can still joyfully remember all the lyrics without error, and I can yet happily hear the voices of the children so long ago. Few facets of life have made such indelible impressions on me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a close friend of Sally Arnold & this brought back my past wonderfully. I sang all of those songs in exactly the same way. Thank you for sharing your Bible school adventures, Robert.