by Carolyn Kaberline
PERRY — After a week of crafts, music, snacks and, of course, Bible study, those participating in the annual vacation Bible school here and their parents were treated to ice cream and cookies on the final evening of the event.
While this scene is no doubt repeated in churches across the country every summer, this program is a little different — it’s a joint project of the Perry United Methodist Church and St. Theresa Catholic Church, located right across the street from each other in Perry.
The joint program began some 10 years ago when members of both churches were observing that they never seemed to have enough volunteers to put on their summer religious events.
“Each wanted a quality event and felt they could have one if they combined efforts,” said Adrianne Meyer, coordinator from the Methodist church.
Despite some of the differences in practices and theology between the two churches, Meyer believes the summer religion program has been successful because of the willingness of both groups to work together.
“We’re teaching about the same God and his love for his people,” said Meyer. “We really don’t make a big deal out of the differences of the religion because what is most important is the same faith we all share. We share the belief of our God who loves us and wants us to love him. When we pray, we don’t encourage one ‘religion’ over the other — we all pray to God the same.”
“We don’t address the two different religions in vacation Bible school,” echoed Wendy George, coordinator from St. Theresa. “We come together to pray, worship, sing songs, give thanks and listen to God’s word in one group. The children aren’t asked to identify their faith, and we treat all participants equally.”
While many of the past programs for the Bible school had been purchased, the programs for this year and the one in 2013 were homegrown, developed together by the two parishes. This year’s theme of “LEGO and let God” proved popular with the participants.
“Several community members get together soon after the program happens to talk about what the next year’s theme will be,” said Meyer. “Last year, we talked about building, and LEGOs, and it kind of evolved from that.”
“We try to incorporate themes that are familiar to the children,” added George, “and it is such a fun theme! Who doesn’t like LEGOs?”
Meyer said the two coordinators work together on the program and the curriculum each year, then announce the theme to the committee of volunteers and delegate the things that need to be done.
“We have an incredible list of volunteers who actually make the week happen,” said Meyer.
George agreed, adding that volunteers ranged in age from teenagers to adults, with many of the adult volunteers coming back year after year.
“I have been involved as a volunteer for the last five years, [since] my daughter started attending,” Meyer said. “I stepped up as co-director four years ago when the need came for someone else to help make the program happen.”
Like Meyer, George began volunteering because of her children.
“I have been involved with VBS for two summers,” she explained. “I began sending my kids three years ago and knew this was something that I would love to become involved with. And [I] absolutely enjoy the program.”
This year saw an average of 75 children attend the four evening sessions with the largest group being in the pre-K group for three- and four-year-olds.
“All are welcome to attend VBS,” said George. “We allow anyone to take part and encourage all young people to join us. It is not necessary to be a member of either parish, or any parish.”
In addition to the activities of the week, students also raise money for the missions or groups in need each year. By the end of the week, more than $100 had been raised for Habitat for Humanity.
“We have a really good group of people here,” said Stacie Adams, former coordinator for St. Theresa. “There’s a larger mission behind Bible school than focusing on either being a Catholic or Methodist specifically.
“We know that the Perry vacation Bible school is spreading God’s message to the whole community.”