Two churches come together for joint vacation Bible school in Londonderry
In late June, dozens of volunteers from both the Presbyterian church and Orchard Christian Fellowship will gather at the quaint, white chapel on the corner of Mammoth and Pillsbury roads for a week of fun, fellowship and life lessons.
In recent months, congregants of both parishes have had some valuable life lessons of their own as old friends reunited and bridges were mended.
The two congregations were divided into two separate groups in fall 2007, when the majority of congregants voted to break away from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) denomination and become affiliated with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
PCUSA was awarded rights to the church in summer 2008, but a settlement entitled EPC members to a 15-acre lot located between the Londonderry Presbyterian Church (LPC) and the town's historical society complex.
The EPC members, now known as Orchard Christian Fellowship, will open the doors to their newly built church early this summer. Until then, the church will continue hosting its services at Matthew Thornton Elementary School.
During a recent meeting between members of both congregations, where staff members began planning for the joint vacation Bible school, it was clear the two congregations were on their way to becoming good neighbors.
According to Orchard Christian Fellowship's education director, Lisa Powers, the two churches are expecting anywhere between 200 and 400 children to attend the June 24-28 vacation Bible school.
Last summer, a shortage of volunteers forced the LPC to cancel its annual week of camp, while the Orchard congregation held its camp at Calvary Bible Church in Derry.
The idea to hold a joint vacation Bible school came about during a recent meeting of Londonderry clergy, when Orchard Pastor Ken Glasier and members of the Presbyterian church learned of each congregation's respective challenges.
"It seemed the perfect solution to everyone's problems," LPC member Lucille Robbins said.
By combining LPC's spacious sanctuary, fenced-in play area and many classrooms with the decorating talents of Orchard's Karen Richards, June should be a record month for both congregations.
The theme of this year's vacation Bible school is Kingdom Rock, and everyone agreed that the oversize stained-glass windows gracing the LPC sanctuary would work perfectly with the medieval décor that's being planned.
"We were thinking of making some tissue paper windows, but now we don't have to," Orchard member Mary Calawa said.
Richards, who was taking measurements and sketching ideas during a recent visit to LPC, said she's excited about her latest project.
"Vacation Bible school kind of consumes you for the months leading up to it," she said with a grin. "It sort of takes over my house."
Members of both churches will gather for further brainstorming later this month and in early May.