New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 18, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
SA g Herald-Zeitung □ Friday, April 18, 1997Church Life
■ To talk with Managing Editor Micah Boyd about Church Life, call 625-9144, ext. 220.
l_It’s simply a matter of tuning
Churches reinvent Sunday school
Programs eyed as missionary to future
By MARTA W. ALDRICH
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sunday school, once belittled by Life magazine as “the most wasted hour” in the United States, is making a comeback.
Bruised by declining attendance and naysayers who labeled it passe, * this well-rooted American tradition now is seen as the best tool to renew congregational life and reverse dwindling membership in churches, say leaders in several mainline Protestant denominations.
“As the Sunday school goes, so goes the church,” says Warren Hartman, who studied enrollment trends while overseeing Christian education for the 8.6 million-member United Methodist denomination during some of its lean years.
Hartman says 65 percent or more of all members still enter the church through its classrooms. Thus, he says, the vitality of church school is both a leading indicator and a major determinant of church membership trends.
“We discovered there's a direct correlation between the number of adults involved in Sunday school and the rate of dropouts in each congregation,” Hartman says. “Changes that usually occur first in Sunday school enrollment can show up as much as five years later in church membership totals.”
The research slowly has caught the eye of churches anxious to shake a 40-year identity crisis and enter the next century with an effective vision.
“Negative talk about the Sunday morning classroom experience is fading,” says Bill Taylor, spearheading Christian education for the 15.6 million-member Southern Baptist Convention. “Across the nation, I’m seeing a renewed interest and excitement about Sunday school.”
The Southern Baptist goal is 100,000 new classes in the next five years.
“We're not talking just about Sunday morning anymore. Bible study can be seven days a week,” Taylor says.
Crisis Pregnancy Center offers counseling
The Crisis Pregnancy Center of New Braunfels is ready to start its Post-Abortion Counseling and Education Bible study.
Women who have been wounded by abortion can call 629-7565 or (800) 834-7101 for information.
St. John’s Episcopal celebration on tap Sunday
St. John’s Episcopal Church will be celebrating its 50th anniversary Sunday.
Following the IO a m. church service, there will be a “This is Your Life, St. John” program.
Former priests, the Rev. Hubert Palmer, the Rev. Bob Creasy and the Rev. Ron Thomson will be guest speakers
A luncheon on the church grounds will follow.
‘Negative talk about the Sunday morning classroom experience is fading. Across the nation, I’m seeing renewed interest and excitement about Sunday school.’
— Bill Taylor Southern Baptist Convention
United Methodists envision a broader church school format as well, offering classes throughout the week for adults, youth and children alike.
“I don’t think Sunday school is so much dead as it is changing shape,” says Donna Gaither, a Christian education specialist. She cites Christian parenting classes, mentoring programs, marriage seminars and instruction on Christian disciplines such as prayer and fasting.
While acknowledging that Sunday school enrollment numbers have been “downright depressing,” the United Methodists’ 10-year-old Disciple Bible study program has exploded in popularity, touching hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide, Gaither says. “These kinds of classes are feeding that whole spiritual void in America today.”
The Sunday school movement is a relatively young 216 years old.
English philanthropist Robert Raikes generally is credited as the inventor. Moved by the plight of poor children who worked in factories of Gloucester every day except Sunday, he organized the first classes in his home in 1780.
Despite early complaints of desecrating the Sabbath, the concept spread quickly to the United States for poor and frontier children. It eventually became the format for religious education for all children in the church and, in the 20th century, expanded to adults as well.
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Flying back from overseas I suddenly realized that I did not know what day it was. Having crossed the international date line and seven or eight time zones in only a few hours I was really disoriented, or “calendar challenged” if you prefer. The truth is I didn’t have a clue as to the day, time cw date. I was totally confused.
Searching the wide-bodied plane for a friendly stewardess, I noticed one walking down the aisle toward me who actually seemed to enjoy her job. “Excuse me,” I said, leaning over to give her the idea that this was an embarrassing matter. “I’m a little confused. What day is it?”
Obviously, my question had been
asked before. She gave me the whole rundown. Time where we were headed and where we had been. Current day and date. She even threw in the year, just in case, and all with a big smile and an offer to bring me a soda. Fixing my watch for the fifth or sixth time in as many days, I was thankful that someone had thought to keep such good track of
details like this. More thankful, though, that it wasn’t left up to me.
I view life with broad strokes, you might say. Details have never been my long suit except when it comes to certain things like writing or public speaking. I then become intensely detailed, which makes up for the fact that I seldom know the date off-hand (that’s what watches are for) and I seldom have any gas in my car.
It usually makes no difference to me, the lack of details in my thinking, that is. But that day on the plane I was reminded of a little psalm that instructs in great detail with very few words. The psalm says this.
So teach us to number the days,
that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.
Does God really care if we waste time? Is it really so important that we know where we are headed and why? Are we just here on earth to live the good life? Does God have purpose and intent for all?
The psalmist answers in the affirmative. Jesus does, too.
It was one of the last days before he was crucified. As he crested the hill that overlooks Jerusalem, he began to weep. His choked words were spiced with poignancy. “Tom did not recognize the time of your visitation,” he said.
A whole nation had forgotten to
number its days. The world did not recognize the time that God came to visit.
There is so much that robs us of time nowadays. Activity strangles the life out of many and numbs the sensitivity to the hour, day and time. While many pass through life oblivious to the hour, God is marking off the days and hours in each life.
At some time unknown to all, the end will come. Everyone will face the Maker’s words, “Tell me how you numbered your days.”
Were they numbered with the pursuit of money and prestige? Were they marked with anger, pride and arrogance? Were they bordered by
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Or are your days numbered in such a way that on that Day you will be present a life marked by wise living?
God is visiting our land uniquely as I write. It is too early to say that spiritual revival has overtaken our country, but there is an undeniable hunger among tens of millions of Americans for spiritual growth. This is the hour and the day of God’s unique visitation.
Don’t let it pass you by without sober thought.
(Dennis Gallaher is pastor of the Freedom Fellowship Church in New Braunfels.)
Scenes from the Bible
_ . , ___ Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Art. Now York
Tha Ark PttM ovor Jordan (Joshua 3:17), (gouache and watercolor on board).
Biblical painting exhibit under way
The Old Testament comes to life in full color in a special exhibition titled “J. James Tissot’s Biblical Paintings: A Victorian’s View of the Bible,” at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The exhibition, organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, consists of more than 50 onginal watercolor paintings completed by J. James Tissot, one of France’s leading 19th-century artists. The display, coordinated by Museum Director Dr. Douglas Hyland, will be on view at the museum through June 22.
Inspired by a religious vision, the French painter J. James Tissot (1836-1902) undertook at tremendous project — a series of nearly 700 paintings illustrating the life of Jesus and the Hebrew Bible. Celebrated today for his portraits of fashionable society in London and Paris, Tissot received the greatest acclaim during his lifetime for his religious paintings He devoted the last 17 years of his life to this work, which he described as not “labor, but prayer.”
This relatively unknown body of work reflects Tissot’s involvement with biblical studies as well as archaeological and geographical research, and presents a broad sample of the events, themes and rich imagery of ancient Israel.
The exhibition presents a small selection from his 373 gouaches of the Hebrew Bible. Beginning with the Creation, the first selection focuses on the tales of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark, and Abraham and Isaac. The next selection, Exodus, recreates the trials and tribulations of Moses to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. The final selection centers on the wanderings across the Red Sea and the desert toward the Holy Land and the Israelites’ ultimate crossing of the Jordan River.
Spanning the years of Queen Victoria's reign, Tissot’s life neatly encompasses the Victorian age and reflects its preoccupations. Scientific theories emerging in the late 19th century —
__ . _ , Photo courtesy of th* Jewish Museum, New York
tim Plague of Filet (Exodus, 8:24), (gouache and watercolor on board).
most notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution — began to change the way Europeans looked at nature and at history. The resulting backlash brought about a religious revival and a general increase in spiritualism.
Tissot, hoping to reconcile the concepts of
faith and science, attempted to substantiate biblical narrative with archaeological evidence. Nevertheless, his concentrated production of biblical illustrations is a testament to his profound personal religiosity.
(Submitted by the San Antonio Museum of Art)