Crowns – Crafts – Songs – and Flannel Board Stories

The sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church (on our wedding day).

My home congregation the entire time I was growing up was Trinity Lutheran Church in Richmond, IN. Our pastor was Pastor John Stuck for most of my childhood. I remember thinking he was pretty old at the time. After all – he had gray hair and his children Gretchen and Eric were in high school and college. I realize now that Pastor Stuck was likely younger than I am these days . . . (Holy knitting needles – that is painfully humbling!)

Pastor Stuck had bad knees. I remember thinking that he had worn out his knees kneeling to pray.   The truth was he had destroyed his knees playing sports. So – he had hobbies other than praying . . . who would have thought that pastors did anything so interesting!?!

The bulletin from the day I was baptized.

I was baptized at Trinity in the winter of 1975 (so way back in the Dark Ages).   Trinity had an old school baptismal font. It was marble and seriously heavy. I remember being impressed by its heft in my youth. I thought our baptismal font could likely withstand even an F-5 tornado without budging so much as an inch. And yes these thoughts did occur to me in my youth. I grew up in the middle of corn country and I sat through a lot of sermons – a whole lot of sermons!

The order of service for the day I was baptized.

I learned to be a Christian at Trinity Lutheran Church. I learned what it meant to be a beloved child of God at Trinity. I learned what it meant to be a part of a Christian community at Trinity Lutheran Church.

I learned and I was loved and I grew and I explored and I decided being a pastor was for me while I was a part of Trinity.

I went to Sunday school at Trinity Lutheran Church week after week from the time I was in preschool until I headed to college.

My very first Sunday school teachers were Dianna Clauson and Judy Ridgeway. These two ladies were saints. Seriously – they were saints who walked among us.

I can vividly remember walking down the stairs into my Sunday school classroom with my Sunday school offering in my hand and a smile of anticipation on my face. Sunday school at Trinity Lutheran Church in the 1980’s was fun.

There were flannel board stories from the Old Testament and there tales of Jesus’ amazing miracles. I loved those flannel board characters. I can still see them when I close my eyes. . . The sheep and Moses and the Chosen People.   Jesus and the disciples. Mary and Joseph and so many – many more folks from the Bible. They all came to life right there in our classroom on our very own flannel board as we learned about their lives and their adventures.

(We didn’t learn about their misadventures. I learned about those in college and seminary once I started reading the actual Bible!?!)

We colored. We crafted and we filled in worksheets about our Bible lessons to take home with us.

In those early years we sometimes used actual paste rather than glue. Paste is not cool. Paste is gloopy and pretty wretched for actual crafting – but we made sacrifices for Jesus.

I know Elmer’s Glue had been invented (1947 – FYI) – but Lutherans are thrifty (cheap). And if there was leftover paste in the Sunday school crafting cupboard then we were going to use it all up before getting new fangled things like Elmer’s Glue!

We also sang. We sang a lot. Oh how we loved to sing!   We may not have been very skilled – but boy were we loud. We took very seriously the psalmist’s call to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Mrs. Clauson played the piano beautifully and Mrs. Ridgeway taught us amazing songs about Jesus and God’s love for us.

Mrs. Ridgeway would carefully write all of the words to all of the songs we sang out on poster board after poster board. She was meticulous and her printing was beautiful.   Even when I was 5 – I was impressed by Mrs. Ridgeway’s dedication and her willingness to serve our Lord and his people.

I learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me” – “Hear the Pennies Dropping” (our children’s offering song) – “If I were a Butterfly” – “Jesus Loves the Little Children” – “Zacchaeus” and so many more truly wonderful songs from these two saints of the Lord.

Oh and there were Birthday Crowns! Every year on the Sunday closest to your birthday you were permitted choose and then wear a beautiful construction paper and glitter crown.   These crowns were amazing and deeply coveted. Choosing and wearing your crown made you feel so incredibly special. And then everyone in the ENTIRE church knew it was your birthday and they would wish you a very Happy Birthday over and over and over again!   My parents weren’t the indulgent sort to let me wear the crown during worship – but still people saw my crown and smiled and wished me a Happy Birthday and it reminded me that I was a part of a great big Christian family.

I learned so much from attending Sunday school each week at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Yes – I learned Bible stories and I believe biblical literacy is incredibly important. I learned those basic foundations of the Christian faith that every Christian should know. Like the 10 Commandments and the story of the Good Samaritan and the feeding of the 5,000. I learned about Noah and Jonah and Ruth and Gideon too.   I met Paul and Peter and Lydia and all of the Marys (there are quite a few). I walked in the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane.

And I also got to ask some really big questions about faith as I grew a bit older. I learned that there was room for me and my big questions in the church.   (Thankfully there still is room for me and my big questions in the church – because I am absolutely full of big questions!)

I took all of those big questions to Valparaiso University where I majored in theology and answered some of them and came up with even more which I took to Luther Seminary . . .

I am so thankful for these memories. I am so thankful for the men and women who taught me and gave so generously of their time and talents. I am so grateful for the opportunities I had to learn and grow as a Christian in this world.

Did you go to Sunday school when you were a kid?   Who were your Sunday school teachers? What was it like? Did you enjoy Sunday school or did you attend under duress?

How did you first learn about being a Christian in this wild and weird and sometimes wonderful world we all live in?

Will you be joining us for Sunday school at Saint Stephen this fall?   Sunday school isn’t just for kids.   Sunday school at Saint Stephen is for EVERYONE! We all need to study God’s Word. We all need to dust off our Bibles and actually READ them (crazy concept – I know).   We all need to grow as people of faith!

Mr. Sean and the next generation of great and awesome questioners!

Sunday school starts at Saint Stephen on Sunday, September 12th at 9:00 am with a super special welcome back celebration breakfast in the fellowship hall.

Then on Sunday, September 19th at 9:00 am everyone (ALL of the Sunday school classes) will meet in the fellowship hall for a reunion game of Bible Trivia just to knock the dust off both our Bible knowledge and our relationships with one another.

I look forward to seeing all of you there and to making wonderful new memories with all of you.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

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