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Sabbath Academy
By Corinne Smelker

"Are all members here present?" Michael asked.

"Present and accounted for, sah!"

"Right--let's get started. First on the agenda, name changes for events in the church."

"Michael, do we really need to change things? After all, God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever."

"Ah yes, Jacob, you're right about that," The archangel Michael smiled down at the newest member of the Church Naming Committee. "However, culture changes, times change and we must…what is it those young humans say?" His elegant face screwed up in an effort of concentration. "Oh yes, 'go with the flow'." He beamed in satisfaction as he looked at his committee.

Gabriel finished reading his notes before looking up at his counterpart. "Look, I can see where you're going with this, but why exactly do you think changing the name 'Sunday School' will make a difference in how many people attend? We've seen a dramatic downturn in attendance in the last two decades. Personally, I don't think a name change will make all that much of a difference."

Jacob decided it was like watching a tennis match observing the two of them trying to come up with 'trendy' names for what had become the black hole in time on a Sunday morning.

"Sabbath Brainery." That was Michael.

"The Church College." Gabriel suggested.

"The Insiders' Institute." Michael shouted.

"Ethereal école." Gabriel yelled.

"Our Father's Aca…what? What did you just say?"

Gabriel strutted; he was rather proud of that one. "Ethereal école. It means…"

"I know what it means; Otherworldly and the French word for school. Do you honestly think that anyone will get up on a Sunday morning to attend 'Ethereal école'?"

"Well, they might!" Gabriel said sulkily. Personally that was his favorite name and he was loath to give it up.

"We might as well call it 'Judas' Jail' and be done with it, at the rate we're going," Jacob interjected hastily. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of what happened when the two of them decided it was time to update the liturgy in the Church of England. The jury was still out on that one, and don't even get them started on music in the church…

"Look," Jacob instructed. "We all know that changing the name of something doesn't really do any good. We could come up with a dozen catchy phrases, but at the end of the day it's up to the person to want to come to church for more than a sweet sermon and some music."

Heads around the table nodded, and with a scrape of chairs Michael and Gabriel resumed their seats.

Jacob continued, "Part of the problem is that the word 'school' has negative connotations to so many of the kids today. Face it--they spend most of their time in school, being lectured to. Even Marshall McLuhan, one of the great educators of this era said, 'Today's child is bewildered when he enters the 19th Century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment…' and that was back in 1967! Are the Sunday classes offered in most churches that much different from what the kids (and their parents) experience five days a week? Why would they want to come to 'Sunday School'? I wouldn't, and I'm an angel!"

Angels looked at each other as they thought about this, and then suddenly a humming set up as words flew around the room. "Cell phones," "Internet," "Facebook," "Making movies," "Practical evangelism," "Interactive teaching" were snippets he heard as he settled back in his seat. He realized now why His Master had asked him to join this committee. It needed to be infused with new ideas, just like the archaic and antiquated concept that was Sunday School.

It would take time--after all, not even Noah's ark was built in a day. But with the creative brainstorming of the angels, who could then nudge their humans in the right direction, Jacob believed Sunday School (or whatever each church chose to call it) would still have its place in creating disciples.
CORINNE SMELKER IS the mom to five kids, and wife of one husband. She is a self-employed writer, and also the administrator for Prophetic Life Ministry, a Christian Ministry located in San Antonio. Corinne shared a wealth of wisdom about freelancing at the FaithWriters' Conference held in Detroit in August. If you would like to write to her, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.