They already want me to sign up them for next year!
That's good ... I want them to like it. And I think I found a good program.
20 kids, tops - four per group. Kenny's teacher took a real shine to him. Among the papers that Tim bought home was a worksheet that called for assigning sequence numbers to four drawings pertaining to the resurrection (according to Luke). Tim's numbering was nowhere near correct.
Kenny's favorite thing was human foosball. They used swim noodles. I had trouble visualizing it from Kenny's description but I understood once I saw the pictures during the "Week in Review" photo slideshow. It's certainly a good way to keep soccer non-contact.
They made God's eyes which Kenny wants to put on the Christmas tree this year. Tim threw his away. I was actually pretty sure that God's eyes were mystical, Mexican things. And, sure, there is a large Mexican immigrant population in Freehold but none of them were enrolled in the VBS program. Oh, well, no reason to be superstitious about it.
They got some solid experience with handchimes and singing. They probably learned something about the story of Jesus. These pictures were taken during the Friday evening performance in the sanctuary for parents, followed by a campfire outdoors with s'mores. Ever since Timmy had his Rutgers summer reading program in their basement last summer, I've been looking for an excuse to get into their sanctuary for a peek.
And it's breathtaking, at least coming into it as we did on Friday night, next to the choir. The first thing you see is the sweeping balcony (always closed for safety reasons), the dark wooden pews with red seat cushions. Behind you on the wall are the pipes to the organ. Three high-backed chairs form half a circle at the head of the sanctuary. The huge pulpit is front and center with a communion table directly in front of that. I noticed that there is no center aisle. This frustrated my picture-taking as the only way to get a head-on shot of the pulpit would be to sit in the front row. And I wasn't about to do that. So all my pictures are taken at an angle. I wanted to ask someone how the bride comes down during a wedding. I'm sure the design is intended to thwart any clerical or eucharistic procession.
The church's adoring, unmistakably hand-painted mosaic tile had an early Byzantine style (I suppose) but its teal blues and brick reds were so reminiscent of anything in the Holy Land. It was as if the artist had first-hand exposure to Holy Land mosaics. Jeff said that of course they wouldn't use genuine tile as that's expensive and Italian. True enough.
It became clear over the course of the week that participation in worship that Sunday would be expected. So that the kids could perform a song from VBS. Kind of give a report to the congregation. I wasn't opposed to that. I just figured that most of the VBS participants were also congregants and we wouldn't be missed. But it's a good thing that we obliged as about half the others didn't. We arrived early so the boys could practice. I knew parking on city streets would be limited and it was already crowded ... because so many members also serve as greeters, ushers, deacons. We were greeted by three women who knew we were visiting because we didn't have name-tags on. Nobody asked us about our regular church. Jeff said it's like on The Prairie Home Companion where everyone is busybody enough to know you're visiting but too polite to ask where you're from. Yes, that was it exactly.
I received a blue paper gift bag stuffed with tissue paper, a book mark, Rick Warren's booklet, a Max Lucado DVD, a church brochure and a bulletin as a welcome. (Their women's retreat in October looks interesting). The same greeter tried to give me the bag again when it was time to leave. Kenny's teacher was also all over us. I didn't see Tim's teacher at all. It was mostly praise music projected overhead on the screen. But one hymn from the hymnal afforded Kenny a chance to hear a real pipe organ. Ours is a simulator ... and not a very good one, too fuzzy. The organ was very nice and I would have been ok with only hymns. The Gospel was the same as ours, without the complementary reading from Exodus and the rest. The kids followed along in the pew Bible and the pocket edition I had taken to Israel ten years ago was the right version - it fit in my purse.
The woman, Pastor Cindy, was dressed in a singlet and capris. The men had ties. Too hot for Ph.D. robes I suppose. Or M.Div. or whatever they have. Pastor Cindy gave a "talk to the children" before the man gave the sermon. I noticed during VBS that she's very good with children but I couldn't help wondering whether she had that position because of her gifts ... or whether her position prompted her to develop the necessary gifts. I'm thinking the former. The third minister did little, gave a blessing I think. But he generally slumped in his high-backed chair looking very uncomfortable. And I told the kids to take communion.
Kenny's teacher joined us again for the closing prayer which involved congregational hand-holding. Ugh. And she asked us, "Kinda different from your church, huh?" I said yes and I suppose Kenny probably crossed himself before and after prayers, so they knew.
I hope they aren't disappointed if we aren't there next week. Upon leaving, I saw the Applewoods Estates shuttle van loading up the seniors. That explained how they could fill the church will such limited urban parking. I felt sorry for those older people having to endure praise music. But Jeff said rightly that the target audience is the youth and the seniors can f--- themselves. I just got a vision of being in the same situation myself someday, boarding a van at my retirement community to whatever church is the closest.