Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

By the Book are celebrating 75 years of service

Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Associated Churches of Huntington County are celebrating 75 years of Weekday Religious Education in 2020.  This program is now known as By the Book or more commonly called the Bible Trailer.  Incorporated as The Huntington County Council of Weekday Religious Education, Inc. on June 20, 1945, the program provides students in third and fourth grades in the Huntington County Community Schools with religious education classes in “Bible trailers” off of school property with parental permission.

A 75th anniversary celebratory dinner is planned for Saturday, August 15 at the Huntington First Church of the Nazarene, 1555 Flaxmill Road, at 6 p.m. Individual seating and tables for eight will be available. Sponsorship opportunities will also be available in the near future.

The Huntington County Ministerial Association, now the Associated Churches of Huntington County, met beginning on November 26, 1944 for several months to plan a weekday religious education program in the Huntington County schools. Those involved spent these months garnering public support and favor. These efforts led to the Huntington County Council of Weekday Religious Education, Inc.

The State of Indiana issued the Certificate of Incorporation, and Weekday Religious Education began in Huntington County with the purpose, “To promote and maintain weekday religious education during released time in the public schools of Huntington County.” Classes were held in the schools under the direction of the first executive board, Rev. F.C. Wacknitz, Rev. Ivan C. Hodges, H. Glen Priddy, Frank Mulligan, Mrs. Ed Pinkerton, Ralph Detamore, Bruce Corey, Frank Shideler, Rev. D.R. Hutchinson and Mrs. Paul McGuffey. Arthur E. Sapp provided the $6.50 required for the incorporation.

The first organization was begun with ten rural and city members who worked in unison. Rev. Wacknitz served as the board chairman and Shideler was the first secretary.This group selected Mrs. Fred Hawes to be director and part time teacher for the city schools. Mrs. Don Butt and Mrs. Ed Pinkerton were hired to be the full time teachers in the county schools including the Tipton School. The program was offered to fourth grade students.

The program was offered to fourth and fifth grade students beginning in 1946, and Mrs. Elmer Becker was added to the teaching staff. Other early teachers included Mrs. Jean Wagner at the Jefferson School and Mrs. Mabel Zurcher at Central School. Mrs. Zurcher went on to teach what became known as Weekday Religious Education for 23 years, and was the director of the program for 13 years, retiring in 1989. An additional long- time teacher and director was Ruth Ann Fickle. Virgil Pasko and Joe Krider were also instrumental in the ministry’s history.

An early historical document described the desire of those beginning the religious education program, “Our prayer is that these hundreds of children entrusted to the churches and to Weekday Religious Education will receive a faith to live by that will make them happy and useful citizens of our great country, and that they will know how to receive the good things God has provided for them.”

In 1948, 12 percent of the children attending the religious education were unchurched, and the Weekday Religious Education program was well received in the schools. In 1963 a law forbidding religious education classes to be taught inside school buildings prompted the board to purchase two mobile trailers. No classes were held in the area public schools after November, 1965.

The Huntington Ministerial Association became the Associated Churches of Huntington on December 30, 1965. The group continued to oversee the “Bible trailers,” and began giving Bibles to graduating high school seniors. In 1989 the original trailers were replaced with new ones. By 1995 approximately 950 to 1000 students were attending Weekday Religious Education. Of those students, 55 percent were unchurched. The trailers were replaced again in 2006. A new trailer was also added in 2018.

The ACLU filed suit in November of 2008 against the Huntington County Community School Corporation for allowing the “Bible trailers” to be parked on school property. The trailers were removed, but through prayer, many meetings, financial support and volunteer help, By the Book classes were being held off school grounds near all eight elementary schools on March 17, 2010. This was three days before the one year date of the day classes were stopped. During this time Teri Shiflett was the director of the program.  Prior to Shiflett becoming director, Lori Mower and Karen Elliott both had long terms of leadership of the program.

Over the years many faithful individuals have been a part of the By the Book program. Jim Guhl, as the president of the Associated Churches, and Dave Ruble oversaw the transition of the “Bible trailers” to the offsite locations after the ACLU lawsuit. Guhl left the position in October, 2011 and Jack Oberholtzer became president. Nancy Beaver succeeded Oberholtzer as president on July 27, 2016 and currently continues to serve in that role.

Dedicated board members, representing various churches, have served the Associated Churches and By the Book since its inception. Current board members include: Nancy Beaver, president; Karen Humbarger, vice president; Judy Lee, treasurer and Phylis Stouder, secretary. Other board members are Ray Bates, Joyce Buzzard, Billie Horrell, Chris Hayden, Eric Vickrey and Dale Osborn.

The current Teacher Coordinator is Kathie Mower, who also teaches By the Book at Lincoln Elementary. Additional teachers include Stephanie Thompson, Andrews Elementary, Horace Mann and Lincoln and Deb Hersey, Flint Springs, Roanoke and Salamonie. Dale Osborn faithfully moves the trailer to the various off school study sites.  Many volunteers from the community aid each week making sure students are transported safely to these sites.

By the Book teachers use the Bible as their textbook.  Lessons teach the students that God has created each of them with a plan and a purpose for their lives.  God’s Word is used to teach and equip the students with the knowledge to make right choices. Bibles are presented to third-graders, and devotionals to fourth-graders just before Christmas break encouraging at home study as well.

An annual essay contest asks By the Book students to describe their favorite lesson and why that lesson was important to them. The essays are judged by participants from the community and prizes awarded to the top six essay entries.

The Associated Churches rely on donations from churches, individuals and organizations to continue the By the Book program. An annual fish fry supper, sponsored by the Union Church, also helps fund the program as well.   All donations are appreciated and help to make a difference in the lives of the children of Huntington County. Checks can be made payable to: The Associated Churches of Huntington County, P.O. Box 344, Huntington, IN  46750.

Visit By the Book Huntington Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bythebookACHC/  or the website at https://achcbtb.webs.com/ for more information.