|Schaeffer's "Summer Bible School" |
St Louis Globe Democrat
July 23rd 1944
(Click the link, then click
on the image to zoom)
While we were in St. Louis, we had a wonderful opportunity to connect with two of Dr. Schaeffer's students from his early days as a pastor in St. Louis prior to the formation of L'Abri in Switzerland. One of these students of the Summer Bible School, Barbara Sprick, mentioned on the phone that she had a "newspaper clipping" to show us. Providentially, we had been able to meet with Mark Ryan, Director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary, who informed us that he had been contacted by Barbara and that he had vouched for us (Thanks Mark!). So we were excited to meet her for an interview and to see this clipping. Well, as it turned out, it was not just a clipping! It was a full page write-up!
Not only that, she had a collection of photos of the students over multiple years and a brochure with an original photo taken by her father! We'll share more on these a little later. However, what further surprised us, is that she not only showed them to us, but she wanted us to have them! We are honored and blessed to receive these wonderful glimpses of Schaeffer history into the FSS collection. He hope that they will be a valuable resource for others in their studies in future!
The full-page write up provides a wonderful glimpse of Dr. Schaeffer's early ministry. One thing you will note upon viewing is that this activity was in cooperation with the school district who even provided buses. My how far we have come!
According to Wayne Sparkman at the PCA Archives, young Francis Schaeffer, had first utilized this new concept of "Summer Bible School" (what we would now call Vacation Bible School) in his first church in Grove City, Pennsylvania, with much success and had finally wrote to Dr. A. L. Lathem who had founded the idea. Francis would eventually become a member of his Board of Directors of the Summer Bible School Association which grew his relationship with it's elder founder. Dr. Lathem was the senior pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church in Chester, 50 miles way from Grove City, and eventually Francis would receive an offer to work with Dr. Lathem as an assistant pastor. While Francis did well at the position, he was largely tasked with overseeing a building project, rather than working more directly with the children's ministry he had come to love and see as a calling. With another building project on the horizon, Francis and Edith realized the need to accept a new pastorate in the pursuit of their calling. They would assume the pastorate of the First Bible Presbyterian Church in St. Louis from John W. Sanderson Jr. Their ministry flourished through the founding of the first Summer Bible School program in St. Louis, which later led to the founding of Children for Christ. Here is a thought from Edith on the development:
This was the beginning of our work with young people that later grew into L'Abri, even as the Bible School was our beginning work with children that was going to include our "Children for Christ" work later. Many seeds were planted in Grove City. ~ Edith Schaeffer, The TapestryIt is wonderful to think that a man who is often known to be one of the greatest Evangelical intellectuals of the past generation, was also a deeply gifted communicator to children. Dr. Schaeffer's tenderness, excitement, emotion and thoughtfulness must have resonated well with them. Something for us all to deeply consider.
~ Dan Guinn
Watch for our next article in this series and also an upcoming mini-documentary!