On The Upward Trail
June 07, 2018
Greetings from your pastor! I hope this finds you enjoying this first week of June. I know that summer doesn’t “officially” arrive until the 21st, but for all practical purposes, it’s here, and I hope it will be a good one for you and your family. Summer brings the opportunity to do things that we don’t do at other times of the year. One of those things is to involve ourselves in the wonderful ministry of our church’s Vacation Bible School.
When I was a young girl, the suggestion was made to my parents that my cousin, Dana, who was older than I and driving cars, could pick me up and take me to Vacation Bible School at Clover Hill Presbyterian Church in Blount County, Tennessee. This was my father’s home church, but we’d left there to return to my mother’s Baptist church when I was two years old. So, at that point in my life, I didn’t know much about being Presbyterian. Aside from the fact that the Number One recreational activity was softball (I’d never played softball), VBS at Clover Hill Presbyterian was a great experience.
One particular memory I have is of an interchange during music one day. I was watching the bearded, soft-spoken man who was leading us in singing, and I turned to my new friend, Rena, and asked, “Who is that man?” She casually replied, “He’s our pastor.” I thought for a moment as I was mentally translating the word, “pastor,” and then looked back at Rena in utter disbelief and said, “He’s your preacher?!?” Rena looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under a rock, and said, “Yes.” That was the day I learned that not all churches are the same.
Let me just say here that I was raised in a wonderful Baptist church, and I have very few criticisms of that experience. I was well-loved, supported in all my endeavors, and taught the Scriptures. Our pastor was a fine and upstanding man who passionately preached the gospel of salvation every Sunday. I do not use the word “passionately” lightly here; he was an old-time evangelical preacher of the variety you might still encounter as you’re scanning the AM dial on your car radio. If I were to describe what he did during his sermons, it would sound like criticism, and I wouldn’t intend it that way. So, I’ll just say that his sermon presentation could count as his physical exercise for the week.
Which is why I was so stunned to learn that the bearded man with the gentle demeanor at VBS at Clover Hill was the church’s “preacher.” I don’t know much about what Pastor Laster was actually like or how he spoke from the pulpit, but the gentle vibes he gave off to us children at Vacation Bible School were a marked contrast to what I would have expected from the church’s “preacher.” For that reason, my encounter with him at VBS was what we might refer to as an “expanding experience” in my religious understanding.
I have many great memories of VBS at my Baptist church growing up (no softball!), but for some reason, my Clover Hill VBS memories stand out in a particular way. I remember Mrs. Betty Koontz’ flannel-board stories of a poor ant who had so much trouble making the right choices; it seemed like he was always getting into trouble just for being himself, and that’s how I so often felt. I remember escaping from softball to wander in the cemetery and look at the headstones of my dead relatives. I remember the smell of walnuts, and of boxwoods (aren’t all Presbyterian churches “supposed” to have boxwoods?!?). I remember how much Pastor Laster seemed to love leading us in round-singing of “We’re on the Upward Trail.” I don’t think this is even a church song, but where the Boy Scouts sing “Scouting bound,” we sang, “Going home.” We were always on the “upward trail,” heading toward our heavenly home.
Which brings me back around to Vacation Bible School at Hebron Presbyterian Church, coming up June 25th-29th. As your pastor, I want to say, please do not ever underestimate the potential value of a VBS experience for a child. Even for “churched” children, it’s a way for them to experience the love and message of Jesus Christ in a different setting and perhaps in a different way that will broaden their understanding. For children who are not regularly exposed to the love of the Gospel, a week at VBS could be their entre into the Christian family. Do you know a child who could benefit from being at our Vacation Bible School? Could you help make that happen? You can access registration info at our church website: www.hebronpresbyterian.com.
We also still need a few volunteers; either adults or older teens. Please let Lori Alford know if you are available. There’s a list of needed supplies on a bulletin board at the church office; that’s another way you can help a child have a lasting positive experience during VBS at Hebron Presbyterian Church.
Alas, I will never have a beard. But I will try to represent you, Hebron Church, and Jesus Christ, both gently and passionately to the children who cross our threshold.
Looking ahead…On Sunday, July 8th, we’ll be privileged to have as our guest the Rev. Maiki Kadade, with the Evangelical Church of Niger. He’ll bring us greetings from our mission partners in Niger, and update us on the work, there. Please plan to be present for worship on July 8th to extend a warm welcome to Rev. Kadade. M Maiki Kadade ai Maiki Kadade ki Kadad
Please continue to be in prayer for our youth and adult leaders as they prepare for their summer mission trip to Pikeville, Kentucky, July 15th-20th.
See you Sunday!