The School Choir

The Sunday before it had been in the announcements, with a picture  up on the video screen- the choir from our denominational Bible School would be putting on a concert Saturday night.  I tabled the information, but not much more, the picture looked like other similar choirs on the backs of some of my parents’ record collection: a collection, unplayed for years, which still graces my living room.

Sunday morning, a friend mentioned that she had attended the concert. She has, on the past been on its board. I believe.  She said that the audience, drawn from our church of nearly two thousand, might have reached fifty- they can’t have out-numbered the choir.

I felt a pang of guilt.  And I remembered the times that such choirs visited our church in my youth.  It was an occasion in our  small southern Alberta town.  A couple of weeks ahead the call would go out for billets and my mother would be sure to take in a couple of these fresh-faced enthusiastic students.  They would take over the Sunday service with their music and testimonies.  Afterward there would be a potluck of delicious home cooked casseroles, and a wide-selection of salads and desserts, and mingling in the church basement.

In those days any young person with a claim to a committed faith expected to spend a year or three in Bible School before going on to other endeavors. I did myself.

(Another pang of guilt that I had not pushed my own offspring to attend.)

Has the world just moved on, or taken over?  Have we lost something vital?



  1. scott said

    I’m curious as to what you think was lost, particularly with regards to not pushing your own offspring to Bible school.

    Bear in mind that aspects of life (traditions, institutions, are not, strictly speaking, lost or gained – but they are always replaced with something else. Nature abhors a vacuum, and there *will be* a substitute. It’s a trade-off.

    What happened instead? What is the alternative? Is it lesser or greater, or just different?

  2. adisasullivan said

    Well, except for a handful of guys who went on to pastor small churches who didn’t require seminary grads, or those of us who could put Bible School on our application to a mission board Bible School didn’t give people paying jobs- even then.

    But it certainly grounded me in my faith and gave me a theological understanding that went beyond Bible Stories I heard in Sunday School. For instance I still remember working through all the scriptures that established the Holy Spirit as a full person and equal partner in all God’s doings.

    What we lost perhaps was just the ordinary everyday assumption that, even if it didn’t produce financial gain, a formal study of one’s faith was a normal and integral part of growing toward maturity.

    And, I suppose it did put young people with a heart for God in close proximity at a time they were looking for partners (though for some reason PBI did it’s best to squelch that.) They didn’t call Briercrest- Bridal College for nothing. “Bring in the heels, patch up their souls, and send them out in pairs.”

    I count it a blessing that all my offspring are committed to growing deeper in their faith without the formal education- and yet.

    I ramble.

  3. scott said

    Another question I would raise is, “What has been the transition of Bible Schools over the thirty years between your generation and that of your children?”

    You don’t get to send your children to the school you went to. It doesn’t exist anymore. Thirty years is a long time for thought and culture shifts. I don’t know what the culture of modern Bible schools is.

    The hallmark of the modern western church is an overwhelming amount of study and dialogue. We have books upon books upon books of orthodox theology, highly distilled and thought over – verified and filtered.

    On each one are testimonies, “This book changed my life.” “Be prepared to be changed.”

    But when we look at the resulting church, it is largely cultural and apathetic.

    I’m not going to disparage the value of the process of study.
    But in the struggle of learning, “How do I live?”, information is the smallest piece of the puzzle.

    • adisasullivan said

      I don’t know exactly how Bible Schools have changed, but I do know that many of your generation know next to nothing about what their Bible contains or about the fundamental doctrines of the faith. This leaves them very vulnerable to the omnipresent teachings of this age.

      Now, I did find that for every course I found challenging and highly useful I did seem to have to take one that involved busy work or the accumulation of relatively useless knowledge. I’ve never found a use for the ten commandments for an effective usher, the basics of correctly conducting 3/4 time, and surprisingly, I found that the oh so essential core course on Law and Grace was poorly laid out and taught.

      I can’t remember when I pitched all my carefully taken notes- not so many years after- about the time that I realized that the insights you get when you are seventeen, and the notes you take, stale. I knew that if I wanted to teach or speak I would study afresh, not go back to the old.

      But that’s not to say that the study and the foundation laid were not important. Not to mention the discipline of living in another culture- long skirts, a rather unnatural segregation of the sexes, bells, rules, and more. Good training for life in Africa actually. (Mind you, the rule they brought in in our senior year that we couldn’t clap when singing songs at class meetings struck me, and other MK’s as an exceedingly strange prelude to missionary endeavors.)

      And what about having to take the short course of remedial grammar? How was I to know that I would move into language learning and linguistics where a good grounding in grammar is rather essential. (At least they never got into remedial handwriting as some professors wished. They didn’t know about the coming computer age then!)

      Oh, I ramble, how I do ramble. I’d do it again. But this time I would study Greek instead of the making of visual aids for children’s clubs. And I would not, emphatically not, try to learn to play an accordion.

    • The Magpie said

      “The hallmark of the modern western church is an overwhelming amount of study and dialogue. We have books upon books upon books of orthodox theology, highly distilled and thought over – verified and filtered.”

      Depends on “modern western church” whether you mean modern vs pre-modern or western vs African or Asian.

      Your argument applies to Western vs non-Western, but definitely not to modern vs pre-modern. Stephen Leacock & Mark Twain portrayed societies where theological debates and divisions played a major role in everyday social life. In their world, a discussion about the election of the saints had to with being Presbyterian or Anglican, not to do with whether Stephen Harper is an evangelical Christian or Obama is a Muslim.

      Theological literacy has retreated within Western society to an extent that would have stunned the ordinary person a hundred years ago. Within the church, theological thinking has been relegated to the professionals, by and large.

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