By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Teaching Sunday school over the course of 60-years has helped Joyce Timson, 73, of Princeton, know the meaning of “humbling (herself) as a little child.”
Timson grew up the daughter and only child of a minister in Concord, Mass.
“Church has always been a part of my life,” Timson said. “I was an only child, my father was a minister, and my mother had a degree in religious education. She was from Missouri, he was from Minnesota, and they met in Massachusetts. My mother’s background was Sunday school. I helped in her class growing up with anything to do with crafts. We would do a lot of crafts together and she would hand me the directors for one so I could do it before she taught it to her class. One was a star cut out of paper we dipped in wax and then put a string on the star to hang as a Christmas ornament. I still have some of the shell jewelry we made.”
While getting an Easter craft ready for Sunday school, Timson recalled how Easter celebrations have changed since she was a girl.
“For Easter, we are doing a dish garden with grosses and a pot to show the tomb and the stone being rolled away,” Timson said. “We are also doing an egg hunt. Easter is a little different now than when I was growing up. The children wore more casual attire. When I was little, all the ladies had new gloves, new hats, new white shoes, and a new dress for Easter Sunday. You never would go to church without a hat on. Easter was always a day you really dressed up. You always dressed up on Sunday, but especially on Easter Sunday.”
One Easter memory from her childhood stands out for Timson.
“One year when I was little, it was the Saturday before Easter and some friends came over and asked us if we wanted to drive out and see some of the huge waves that were coming in,” Timson said. “I was excited because they had a really nice car I got to ride in. Since he was a minister, my father didn’t make that much money. He had been busy preparing for his sermon the next day, but we went. He may have made a remark about going out the day before Easter, but we all had a nice time.”
Due to her family’s role in the church, Timson began teaching Sunday school the same year she started high school.
“I started teaching Sunday school in high school in Concord, Mass., where my dad was a congregational minister,” she said. “I taught second through third grade when I was in high school during the church services, because there just wasn’t enough room for the youngsters during the service. I didn’t teach during college, but I taught vacation bible school in Pennsylvania after I was married in 1961. After my daughter was born in Wisconsin, I helped with bible school there.”
Timson moved to Princeton in 1965 and became a member of Princeton Presbyterian Church that same year.
“We moved to Princeton when I was pregnant with my son in 1965, and I began teaching third through fourth grade for a long time when my children were little,” she said. “When my children were in those grades, I would take off for a year or two so I didn’t teach them. I would also fill in for other teachers at times. We came to this church because a couple we knew from Wisconsin had moved here and went to this church, but we also wanted a church with a nursery for our children. We started here in the fall. After 1970, I helped with the Bible School most years. A lot of times, I was the gopher, getting things ready and helping out wherever I was needed.”
Since 2001, Timson said the church has changed their Sunday school to a more contemporary format.
“Now, we do our Sunday school in a rotation format,” she said. “We will tell the story in one room one week, do a craft in another, and watch a video in another. We have popcorn and drinks for the video lessons and they have a lot of fun doing that. When the kids are in school, they have to sit at a desk and table, so instead of doing that we have them sit on cushions. I’m 73 and I have a hard time getting up from the floor, so I usually sit on a stool or a small chair with them. The kids like to sit and lay down. Chairs like we have today didn’t really exist in biblical times, so the kids are sitting much like they would have back then. Of course, we do use a bench and tables for our craft time.”
According to Timson, the new approach helps the children learn.
“Before that, we had more of a traditional Sunday school format with material from companies and sponsored by the Presbyterian Church,” Timson said. “I really like the format now. We don’t always get in all the stories, but it’s a great approach for the kids. We as teachers, have gotten more involved. I just hope the kids get as much out of it as we do. Adults and children don’t learn the same way. The kids like to be hands on and in this audio-visual age, they want to see things. We are trying to involve he kids more and not all of them learn the same way. Even if the kids don’t get it all of it, I enjoy it. I’ve watched a lot of the kids at this church grow up. Some of them are bringing their children back here for Sunday school or they come back and visit. When you stay with the kids a lot of the time, you don’t feel as old.”
One of Timson’s favorite lessons to teach her classes is the story of Joseph and his multi-colored coat from the biblical book of Genesis.
“I know the story of Joseph so well because my father taught it to me,” she said. “We’ve done different things with that story over the years. Its fun to show all the parts of the story, especially since there are very few biblical characters where we get to hear their story from birth to death. Joseph is a fairly full story, so you can learn about him and his family, which is fun to explore. The kids love coloring the pictures of the coat. The story goes in a lot of different directions, so there is so much you can do with it.”
Timson said she feels it is important to teach children the books of the Bible.
“I love seeing them learn, that they pick up on things,” Timson said. “It is fun to see the kids improve over the years. One activity we give the kids is we will ask them to find us a name from the Bible for every letter of the alphabet. Toward the end of the year, we will play games based on what we had learned throughout the year.”
Timson said she is often surprised by the children she teaches.
“One year, I had a little girl who was very quiet, and I didn’t know if she was getting anything. At the end of the year, I put a ‘J’ up on the board and asked the kids to name a book of the Bible starting with that letter. She came right up, very quietly and wrote ‘Job’ on the board. I was glad to see something had clicked. I really like for the kids to know the books of the Bible and where to find them,” Timson recalled.
“I had one boy who had a really hard time paying attention the day we started learning them, and I sort of thought he wasn’t going to learn them. The next Sunday, he was the only kid in the classroom who had all the books memorized.”
During her time teaching, Timson has taken the words of Matthew 18:1-6 where Jesus advises his followers to “become as little children.”
“Teachers learn as much as the kids do,” Timson said. “We have to learn the subject in order to teach it to the kids. I have gotten the joy of working with these children. It’s fun to see what they will do next. They are very unpredictable.”
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