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Advent Church at Cape May Turns to Sunday School in a Box

Contributed by: Sam Wilson

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Students gather online for lessons using Church of the Advent’s “Sunday School in a Box” materials

We were so impressed by the ministry of the chair of the Diocesan Life-Long Christian Formation Committee, Anne Delgado—its openness, sincerity, quality, and persistence—that our parish, Church of the Advent, Cape May, NJ, decided that it needed to be more energetic and creative in overcoming the pandemic’s shutdown of our normal children’s Christian formation efforts, principally our weekly Sunday School.

So our Education Committee met and asked our long-standing Sunday School teachers, Trisha Andrzejczak and Meredith Markley, what they needed from the parish to meet our children’s needs. They recommended and the committee decided to do Sunday School-in-a-Box, a curriculum technique featured in our diocese’s Life-Long Christian Formation (LLCF) online newsletter, to which our committee subscribed.

Here’s how the project unfolded: Last year, an enthusiastic parishioner donated 25 plastic containers with lids (slightly larger than an average shoe box but not by much). We decided to use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for the upcoming fall of 2020 as our weekly curriculum focus. Next, we found a wonderful children’s bible on sale from christianbooks.com. It comprehensively covered the Old Testament and New Testament with lots of good artwork. We developed a curriculum matrix schedule that cross-referenced the respective RCL Propers, their themes, and an idea for an associated craft project. Then, we gathered common arts and crafts materials (e.g, glue, scissors, play-dough, etc.).

Researching the Oriental Trading Company online offerings, our teachers identified components that would constitute the elements for craft projects. Each project matched or supported one of the lessons in the weekly RCL Propers. We assembled all of these materials into 25 “shoe box” kits (including a copy, each, of the children’s bible).

Advertising the curriculum’s availability through newsletter, church announcements, and word of mouth, the parish promptly disseminated 22 of the 25 boxes, near and far. The remaining three were delivered to a family at the nearby Coast Guard base. One grandmother sent out boxes to each of her four grandchildren, who lived elsewhere in the state. She began to conduct weekly Zoom classes on Tuesday evenings. Other parents or grandparents did likewise or held classes in their homes.

Our parish repeated this process for two more calendar quarters, up through the spring of 2021. The feedback on this initiative was overwhelmingly positive. An exported curriculum with something “concrete” to work on was the most often cited attribute of the project. So, fired up by the zeal and example of Anne Delgado, the creativity and energy of our Sunday School faculty, the support of our parish’s budget and its education committee, and by God’s Grace, we did not let Covid shut us down from continuing our children’s Christian formation efforts. Oh, and did I tell you the average cost of each of the three months’ curriculum increments? $250 or $10 a box not counting the cost of our generous parishioner’s donated boxes. Thanks be to God!