Bible school serves kids from many churches

This year’s Ecumenical Vacation Bible School (EVBS) will be called “Rainforest Adventure” and will be held at Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church in Ocean View, at Route 26 and Central Avenue, from Monday, June 16, to Friday, June 20, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. each day.

EVBS has been going strong since the late 1980s. According to former Mariner’s Bethel pastor the Rev. Alex Slonin, Bible school is a staple of the Methodist Church, “like singing songs.”

Slonin, along with the late Rev. John “Jack” Masterson of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach, started the Southeast Sussex Ministerium. The Southeast Sussex Ministerium is a group of local clergy and laypeople who represent various churches in the Ocean View/Bethany Beach areas and was established to foster a cooperative spirit among them.

Early supporters included Ocean View Presbyterian Church, St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, St. George’s Methodist Church, Bethany Beach Christian Church, Union Wesley Church, Community Lutheran Church, Millville Methodist Church, Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church and St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Bethany Beach.

The Ministerium also started the Atlantic Community Thrift Store or ACTS.

After Masterson heard of the Bible school at Mariner’s, they decided to join forces and have Bible school together.

“Father Masterson was a very progressive priest,” recalled Slonin. “He wasn’t afraid of Protestants. At one of our Ministerium meetings, I mentioned Bible school, and he said, ‘What’s that?’ He was fascinated by it after coming a couple of times.”

After the churches joined forces, the Bible school grew too much for one building. The older kids would be at St. Ann’s and the younger ones at Mariner’s. Once each church had the room, they went back to having it in one spot — alternating locations each year.

By 1998, attendance had grown to 240 students, which was a very challenging number for the facilities and volunteer staff. After an evaluation, it was decided to limit registration in the future. Changing demographics have resulted in registration last year of about 70 students, so there is some room to grow at present.

In EVBS, children get to experience being led by a different minister in prayer each day. Crafts and activities are age-appropriate, and there is an opening program to get participants excited about the school. The staff is all volunteers.

Classes this year are for children entering kindergarten in the fall through fifth grade. Local children and visitors are both welcome. Young teens are also welcome, and they will form a drama group. The charge is $5 per family. Registration can be done through the local churches, by calling 539-5443 or on the first morning of EVBS, before 9 a.m.