Virginia Sinclair Hawes could only find one place available in New York’s East Side neighborhood to start an “Everyday Bible School,” and that was a beer garden unused during the day. That program, beginning in 1898, became the first known Vacation Bible School (VBS) program in New York State. The Baptist Mission Society quickly noticed the program, emulated its success, developed a curriculum, and recruited a handful of Union Theological Seminary students to help lead classes at other Baptist churches.
The Church of Our Saviour, Lutheran, had its humble beginnings in the Munsey Park Center, which served as a beer hall on Saturday evenings and a dog obedience school during the week. Our founders held the first worship service on December 12, 1937, probably with the stench of stale beer in the air from the previous night’s revelry.
While the state’s first VBS program and the founding of our congregation have a similar connection with beer, our 2021 VBS program, which ends this morning, does not. But the number of enrolled students, 40, matches the same number of participants in the first known Vacation Bible School. (We limited our enrollment to 40 this year due to the pandemic.)
The participants’ relationship with the VBS program is more important than the connections with beer and attendance numbers. We are proud to have many siblings of past participants join us year after year. Additionally, many of today’s station and youth crew leaders had previously been students in the program. As an example, our director Bobby Stainkamp was a participant when he was a tyke. There’s a good reason. As one observer stated, “I realized that Vacation Bible School is one of the greatest evangelism tools of the Christian church. It’s upbeat. It’s purposeful. It’s fun. It leaves a lasting impression.”
Would you please join us this Sunday, August 22 for our 9:15 AM (indoors) and 10:30 AM (outdoor drive-in) liturgies? It will be a chance to thank our wonderful VBS volunteers. And, please be assured there should not be any remnant odors of stale beer! But, in closing, we share a famous Martin Luther quote: “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep. Whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven. Thus, let us drink beer!”