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Summerthing worth singing about

July 12, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

For many, the memories of vacation Bible school are all too often of stale graham crackers, warm chocolate milk and being forced to give up valuable play time in the summer.

That's certainly not the case with Summerthing, an ecumenical vacation Bible school that has lasted 25 years among some of the larger churches in Hagerstown.

Just over, Summerthing for 1998 involved more than 140 children from the community at large, the organizing churches and other congregations.

"This year Summerthing was sponsored by John Wesley, St. Andrew's and Asbury United Methodist churches, St. John's Lutheran and Zion Reformed," said Greg Shook, minister of music at John Wesley.

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All these churches, and the Hagerstown YMCA, send representatives to the organizational meetings, which begin each year in January, Shook said.

A curriculum is chosen, teachers are selected and youth groups are called upon to be helpers.

"I've been involved with Summerthing for nine years," Shook said. "It's really a lot of work but I love it."

Shook, who provided the music portion of the 9 a.m. to noon program each day, had a different group of children every 20 minutes.

"It's exhausting," Shook said. But when January rolls around again, he plans to be in on the plans for Summerthing 1999.

Mixing different denominations, lifestyles, races and creative talents is challenging but in that challenge is the secret to the success of Summerthing, Shook said.

"We look for a program that is God-focused and ecumenical," Shook said.

This year, the committee chose God's Children Pray, a Lutheran Bible school curriculum. But it was chosen because of its vibrancy and good content, not because it espoused Lutheranism, Shook said.

In addition to music, there are crafts and recreation as well as lessons. Younger children spend their mornings at John Wesley while the older kids are at Zion.

And then there is the ever-popular swim at the YMCA to top off the morning's activities.

"Our youth distribute fliers and put up posters to encourage people to sign up early," Shook said, noting that this year he and Lori Hoffman of St. John's designed them.

Once the pre-arranged limit is reached, the membership rolls are closed.

Numbers and longevity are one way to measure success but Shook has another yardstick.

"Little kids come up to me in the grocery store later and sing the Summerthing song," Shook said. "That's special."

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