Now it is almost inconceivable to imagine how, for all of my elementary school years, we would spend a chunk of every Wednesday morning. Students who had their parents’ permission would dress for the weather, leave school, and march two-by-two a half mile up the hill to the Nixon United Methodist Church. There we would sit in a large semi-circle of wooden chairs in the basement and take in stories from the Bible as told by missionaries employing beautiful felt board pictures. I best remember the tales from the Old Testament such as how the temple was constructed, Elijah ascending to Heaven in a flying chariot of fire, and Gideon defeating the Middianites using fear induced by breaking clay vases. We were offered a verse to memorize each week. These were short such as “Be ye kind one to another.” We each received our personal copy printed on colored paper hand cut into a shape such as a tree by someone who did a lot of scissor work.
I have strong opinions about preaching religion in public school but I will offer that these stories established my firm cultural understanding of the Bible. Nothing of the sort offered in Sunday School, or Catechism, or pulpit could compare with the indelible images stamped by these excellent story tellers and their colorful felt board. When I think of tales such as Joseph interpreting the dreams of the pharos, my default understanding falls to my memories from these sessions. Perhaps if we would indulge in some cultural religious education of all faiths we could be brought to a better place for mutual understanding. Perhaps we could learn to be kind to one another.