The Church Lady: School celebrations are wrapped up

What do men dressed in tuxedos, giant tricycles on the beach and rain gutters filled with ice cream have in common? Kids, kids and more kids

Article Highlights

  • We may finish our education, but never finish formation. It is never-ending learning. We are always evolving - Rev Kyle Bennett

What do men dressed in tuxedos, giant tricycles on the beach and rain gutters filled with ice cream have in common? Kids, kids and more kids.

School was back in session on Aug. 24 and two Marco churches had fun-filled family activities last weekend. The folks at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church had a New Year’s Eve-themed kickoff party for their children and youth Christian education classes and the Presbyterians had their annual Back-to-School Bash and Sundae Sunday.

St. Mark’s party followed their family-friendly 9:15 a.m., Aug. 30, worship service. There was kid-friendly food such as frozen yogurt tubes, mini muffins, cookies and sparkling apple juice mimosas, with coffee and real mimosas for the adults. Many adults wore evening wear. Classrooms were open and educational materials were on hand for parents to preview.

St. Mark’s refers to their education programs as Christian formation. The Rev. Kyle Bennett, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, explained that education programs in the past have been called Sunday school or Christian education. Many children don’t want to go to school and education implies that there is an end to the process. “The idea is that it never stops. We may finish our education, but never finish formation. It is never-ending learning. We are always evolving,” said Bennett.

Kathy Campbell has been the director of Christian formation for young children since the spring of 2008. Prior to her appointment as director, she served as a volunteer. As director, she receives specialized training and accreditation.

Unique to St. Mark’s is their Godly Play program for children ages pre-K to fourth grade. “Godly Play is a Montessori approach to religious education, using natural manipulatives and materials, storytelling and wondering questions,” said Campbell. “(It is) an imaginative approach, which allows children to naturally develop their own spiritual awareness. The author, Dr. Rev. Jerome W. Berryman, is an Episcopal priest who was inspired by his advanced Montessori training with Sofia Cavaletti to develop a comprehensive religious education curriculum.” Last year’s Godly Play exceeded her expectations and she is excited about the new year.

This year’s schedule will include the newly purchased stories of Ruth, David, St. Patrick, St. Margaret, Mother Teresa and prophet stories, as well as the parables of Jesus.

Children involved in Godly Play are greeted at the door by a co-teacher who sits on a chair outside the door of the classroom. She asks the child if he or she is ready to come into the circle. This, explained Campbell, implies commitment on the child’s part. The greeter also helps smooth the introduction of latecomers. Campbell serves as the storyteller. After her presentation, children get to choose work materials that supplement the story. There is also a drawing board and art supplies, as well as a kneeling table for Play-Doh. “As teachers, we support the community of children in the classroom. Children love it because of the very practical and peaceful nature of a session in Godly Play,” said Campbell.

“I am really excited about what we have to offer here at St. Mark’s. On Sept. 13, we will begin a weekly Family Service at 10:30 a.m.,” said Campbell. Godly Play will run from 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Children will be brought over to the Parish Hall to meet up with their parents and to have refreshments before the service.

Peggy Totten, the church’s youth minister, who has been on staff since the spring, was also on hand to showcase the newly decorated youth room and to explain the Rite 13 program for fifth grade through high school. “It celebrates the individuality of each young person and their creative potential. Rite 13 includes Bible study, prayer, rites of passage, outreach ministries and both serious and playful activities,” explained Totten. “It teaches two guiding principles — manhood and womanhood are free gifts from God, and adulthood must be earned. Rite 13 leads to Journey to Adult and engages youth with skills and critical thinking involved in adulthood. The youth plan and embark on a pilgrimage together at the end of this segment.” Rite 13 will also begin on Sept. 13 at 9:30 a.m.

Marco Presbyterian’s Back-to-School Bash was held on Saturday afternoon at Tigertail Beach. This annual church family event is in its fifth year. The church set up a tent on the beach and rented kayaks and giant water tricycles. There were hamburgers, chips, cookies and beverages. They played volleyball, had a sand castle building contest and tricycle races. The children and youth enjoyed the high-energy events, while the adults took turns relaxing and enjoying the cool gulf breeze under the tent.

Christian education teacher Pat Lammersfeld was one of the adults under the tent. She teaches the middle and high school students and is excited about her new class that began on Aug. 23. “They are happy when they are challenged, and I plan to challenge them to think deeply,” said Lammersfeld. “We will do an overview of the entire Bible. We will look at who God is and what He requires. We will investigate the relevancy of Scripture for today’s teen.”

The Presbyterians have hosted an annual giant ice cream event since 1998. Prior to the ice cream portion of the evening, the Rev. Paul May, pastor of families, engaged the youth in high-energy games in the fellowship hall. The decibel level was excessive, as was the laughter. However, when May stepped up on the podium to give the message from Psalm 139, the room immediately quieted down.

After the message, the youth were dismissed to the courtyard, where, after a brief prayer to “bless this sugar to our bodies,” by Rev. May, they enjoyed a 25-foot-long sundae. There were mounds of ice cream and the youth chose their own toppings from among bananas, butterscotch, caramel, cherries, chocolate, nuts, Reese’s hard shell, sprinkles and whipped cream.

In addition to Christian education classes for all ages, the church hosts two youth events a week. The Youth Group meets every Sunday evening at 4:29 p.m. Youth Renew meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. They are also planning two discipleship retreats, one in October and another in the spring.

“Families get together to have fun on the weekends, and so, in the same way, we plan events like the Back-to-School Bash and the 25-foot Sundae Sunday to celebrate our shared faith,” said May. “And just as friends are a welcome addition to any family event, our youth regularly invite their friends to join in on the fun at our events. Because some of their friends have never heard the Gospel of Jesus before our primary goal is to share the Gospel. These events are one way we allow others to feel like a part of our family and to open doors for the Gospel, which we strive to share without pressure or alienation; rather, as to members of our family.”

If you have any service changes, new classes or special events. Please send your news to

Upcoming Events

For the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, September is one of the holiest months of the Jewish calendar. For more information on the High Holy Day tickets/dinners, call the JCMI office at 642-0800.

Selichot (forgiveness) Service 8 p.m., Sept. 12. During the service, deeds of the past year will be examined, forgiveness sought from God and promises will be made to improve behavior in the New Year. A 6:30 p.m. dinner and a string quartet concert with members of the Naples Philharmonic precede the service. Tickets for the dinner are $15 and must be purchased by Sept. 7.

Rosh Hashanah Services, 8 p.m., Sept. 18, 10 a.m., Sept. 19 and 10 a.m., Sept. 20.

Yom Kippur Services, 8 p.m., Sept. 27, 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Sept. 28.

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