By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
Students who don’t go away for winter break are getting a “vacation” here.
Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish in Spencer tried a new take on a time-honored program this week – Winter Vacation Bible School. With a summer camp theme, no less!
The director, Kenneth Choquette, who coordinated the parish’s Vacation Bible School last summer, said he hadn’t heard of any church offering such a program in the winter. But he was surprised they’re not.
“One of our goals as a parish is to increase our youth ministry,” he said. “The kids love it! Why not continue to do it? … I’d rather see the kids attend something like this than sit in front of the television.” Teenagers had “a blast” helping with the summer Bible school, which drew close to 50 younger children, he said.
Tuesday there were 16 “campers” and 22 teenaged and adult leaders, said Cheryl Benoit, who coordinated the crafts.
Most school-aged parishioners don’t go on trips during the winter vacation and many parents work, said Mr. Choquette, who is also the parish’s custodian.
He said he suggested using a Bible school program the parish already owned, and last used in 2009. They chose to do three days of the five-day summer program on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Monday was the Presidents Day holiday and the parish left Friday open in case they needed a snow day.
Last summer some children couldn’t attend the Bible school because their working parents couldn’t transport them to or from a half-day program, he said. So Judith Brennan, faith formation coordinator, suggested offering an extended day this winter.
The charge was $30 per child for the 12:30-5 p.m. Bible school program, and $60 for the extended program, which began at 8 a.m., Mr. Choquette said. Discounts were available for multiple children in a family, he said.
Both programs were open to the public, and members of St. John the Baptist Parish in East Brookfield and First Congregational Church in Spencer were specifically invited, he said.
On Tuesday organizers said most of the children came for the full day, and one from out of town came unexpectedly with a friend.
“Father Bill was here this morning and he read them a story,” Mrs. Benoit said of their parish administrator, Father William Schipper.
The Bible school program – Son Rock Kids Camp – is about Jesus calling Peter, and it ties into nature, Mr. Choquette said.
It has a summer camp theme, so members of the parish Boy Scout troop lent some of their camping equipment for decorations, and one helped with the program, he said.
“We used every single tree that we could find,” Mr. Choquette said of the artificial Christmas trees erected to lend an outdoors-like atmosphere.
Tuesday afternoon found the “campers” around the indoor “campfire” by a tent, watching DVDs and singing about following and trusting in Jesus.
Their Bible lesson about Peter, the rock and fisher-of-men, was offered at “Lookout Point,” a room with sleeping bags spread on the floor and a large picture of a mountain on one wall.
Another room was set up to teach them – through information about a skunk, moose and owl – that they are accepted and saved by Jesus and are to live for him.
For snack they had Goldfish crackers. But not for consumption, apparently, were the mini marshmallows stuck on the end of plastic straws, which they shot at a target. In crafts they made paper lanterns to remind them Jesus is the light.
“I can see now how much work is put into it,” said Alexa Mathon, 15, who attended this Bible school program in the past and was helping with it this week. But, she said, “even as a crew leader, it’s still fun.” And you definitely learn the lessons better than when you were a child.
“We want them to … learn more about their faith and what it was like in Jesus’ time,” said Zachary Simons, 17, who never attended Bible school himself, but started helping when his younger brother began attending a few years ago.