In her centennial history (1866-1966) of the Valley Chapel congregation in East Canton, Ohio, Mary Stoner quotes extensively from a record log of the church’s Sunday school program. One entry is rather humorous:
August 29, 1875. The superintendent not being present and a general decline of spirits for want of cool air, the society adjourned by singing a few songs.
Another showcases the denomination’s caution in adopting Sunday schools (a byproduct of their doctrine of nonconformity):
June 24, 1875 . . . [I]n order to establish a Sabbath School we must first agree that there dare be no picnic and the superintendency must remain in the hands of some church member.
And yet a third demonstrates the growth of the initiative within the religious climate of late 19th century Canton:
May 15, 1881. The school was large and interesting. Quite a number of spectators present. Males 24, females 28, teachers 8, total 60.
Stoner’s account goes on to record that the Sunday school continues to be (in 1966) “a prominent part of the total church program” — so prominent, in fact, that by 1954 the congregation needed to build an addition to their building in order to accommodate all the pupils:
At the time, no money was available from the Central Conference Revolving Fund. So the church board put it to the people. . . . The congregation accepted the challenge. Everyone’s heart was in it. Small tin banks were distributed to the Sunday school children, and they were asked to bring coins in their banks on the first Sunday of each month.
For the next twelve months the children brought in their banks, and the adults presented tithes and offerings to the Lord for the badly needed Sunday school rooms. . . . Even though the congregation had only about eight wage earners, the Lord had blessed the church with skilled builders, and through the donated labor of these men and the sacrificial giving of all, the building was completed debt-free and was dedicated on March 31, 1963.
More information on the Valley Chapel congregation is included in Mary Stoner’s booklet, “Valley Chapel Centennial,” published by the church in 1966 and available in the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives (Grantham, Pa.).
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