Mini-vacation Bible school teaches love and forgiveness

Matt Gardner
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Child participants, teen leaders and adult facilitators pose for a photo at Calvary United Church on Friday during a mini-vacation Bible school. Youth and children minister Lorelei Clifford is standing on the far left while Rev. Nora Vedress is second from right in the top row.

A group of students from École Vickers School used their day off on Friday to learn the virtues of love and forgiveness from a biblical perspective.

Calvary United Church hosted their “mini-vacation Bible school” throughout the day, offering a range of activities for 19 children from kindergarten to Grade 6 with the help of volunteer teen leaders from the same school.

“Lots of churches do vacation Bible school in the summer, but our church felt that there was a need for vacation for when the kids have no school on the teacher days where the teachers are doing their training,” youth and children minister Lorelei Clifford.

“We felt there was a need for programming then, so we decided to have little mini-vacation Bible schools throughout the year, and that’s why we’re doing this today because the kids are off of school.”

Adult facilitators used both biblical and non-biblical texts to teach the children about forgiveness, with the lessons often explained in terms of dreams.

During the afternoon, Clifford read from the book God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which describes a vision of “God’s dream” as wishing everyone to treat each other as brothers and sisters.

The key biblical text of the day was the story of Joseph and his multi-coloured coat.

Taken from the Book of Genesis, the narrative relates the story of Joseph, a young man favoured by his father who is wronged by his brothers but learns to forgive them.

“The story goes that Joseph had 12 brothers, and Joseph’s father really appreciated everything that he was doing because he was such a good kid,” Clifford said.

“He was 17 when his father gave him this multi-coloured coat, and his brothers were jealous of him and so they stole the coat. They decided to get rid of Joseph, so they threw him in a well and they pretended that he had died and they handed the coat to the father” as proof that Joseph had died.

Rev. Nora Vedress explained that a coat of many colours would have been seen as a status symbol at the time, given the expensive nature of dyes.

Bullying, Vedress said, is often based around jealousy, as people often attempt to make themselves feel better by putting others down.

Joseph’s brothers initially sold him into slavery, but after many twists and turns, he ultimately ended up wealthy, successful and respected.

“His brothers were starving and he had lots of food, and so he had this choice to make,” Vedress said. “He could either be a bully back to them and say, ‘Take a hike’ -- which is human nature and what most of us want to do … When someone’s been mean to us, we want to be mean back.”

“He started out kind of manipulating them and being mean back,” she added. “And then realized, ‘I can’t just keep doing to them what they did to me, because it’s wrong’ -- and so then he had a change of heart and he forgave them.”

I’m pretty impressed with how much the kids actually pick up. Rev. Nora Vedress

That lesson of being the better person and forgiving others was the centerpiece of the children’s activities on Friday at Calvary, which also included more playful options such as a bouncy castle.

One craft session involved the children gluing coloured tissue paper onto a coat in order to imitate Joseph’s garment so as to help see themselves in the character. The children then posed for framed photos wearing the coats.

Another activity involved putting coloured prayer beads on a string.

“When they touch each bead they’re supposed to remember different people in their family or their friends to think about and care for,” Clifford said.

Dreams were another important element of Joseph’s story as well as the mini-vacation Bible school, with the children creating “dream journals” depicting dreams they’d had or their dreams for the future.

“Joseph had dreams … for himself on what he would be able to do in the future, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to inspire (in) the kids is to dream big dreams,” Clifford said.

The hoped-for result of the day’s lessons was to help teach the children the importance of the choices they make and how to make better choices in the years to come, which might allow them to become better citizens and stronger adults.

Vedress described her pride after hearing about children who attended a previous event at Calvary, saw another child being bullied and took charge of the situation through collective action.

Linking arms, they walked over to the child -- who was twice their size and much older -- and called out the bullying they saw.

“I’m pretty impressed with how much the kids actually pick up,” Vedress said. “You can even see it when they start playing and human nature starts coming out and that kind of wrestling starts, and someone will stand up and say, ‘You guys, that’s not what Joseph would have done.’”

“We think they don’t listen, but they do,” she added.

Another church event with a specific anti-bullying theme was originally scheduled to take place on Friday, but has been moved to the fall to coincide with the start of the school year.

A specific date has yet to be determined.

Organizations: Bible school, Calvary United Church

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