Submitted by Eleanor Stout Courtney, Beaver Resident
All the churches in Beaver provide a Sunday school program. Many Beaver residents attended Sunday school as children. Some continued to attend adult classes. My mother, who came to Beaver in 1907, was in Sunday school the Sunday before she died at age 92. All of her life she attended Sunday school. Her last class, the Mizpah Class, was for elderly women. The men had their own class. They did not “socialize.”
Early in our marriage, as a young couple, my husband and I joined the Friendship Class where lifetime friendships were established. We did socialize. The men played golf together, went on fishing trips annually and had lunch together every Saturday. Some of the women established a lunch club. As a class the members had picnics, Halloween parties and Christmas parties. Their original common interest was the Sunday school class.
As I reflect on my own Sunday school experience, I realize what a tremendous influence Sunday school attendance has on its attendees.
One of my earliest memories is of the annual Children’s Day in the early 1930s. On that day every Sunday schoolchild had a part in a program witnessed by the entire congregation. Even a three-year-old could stand up and say, “God is love” or “Jesus loves me.” I vividly remember my shock and embarrassment when my Sunday school teacher introduced me by saying, “This little girl was born on Christmas Day and God has big plans for her.” I was embarrassed by this recognition but shocked by the announcement that God knew my name and had his eye on me. If Mrs. Ealy said it, it must be true.
A few years later I lingered after Sunday school to ask this teacher a church question. It never occurred to me to ask my parents. Mrs. Ealy was my church authority.
“Mrs. Ealy,” I asked, “What does the preacher mean when he says ‘tithes and offerings’? What does ‘tithe’ mean?” Without hesitation this dear lady took from her purse ten pennies, placed them on a chair and explained to me that from those ten pennies one belonged to the church. That is a tithe of money. She added, “Even a little girl can also tithe her time by being of service to others. That is the message of the church.”
To please Mrs. Ealy I dedicated myself to seeking opportunities to serve. I stayed after school to clean the blackboards and empty the waste baskets. I knocked on my neighbor’s door to offer to do her dusting and subsequently helped her when she entertained. I offered to pass out the papers in Sunday school. As I got older, I was the volunteer who took the minutes at meetings. In high school I served in many capacities, classmates knowing, “Eleanor will do it.” I was chair of the prom, in charge of magazine sales, always looking for a chance to follow what Mrs. Ealy and other Sunday school teachers had taught me. I read the Scripture at the Community Easter Sunrise services upon invitation of the Beaver Area Ministers.
As a mother, I was home room mother, hot dog day mother, football mother, cheerleader mother and swim team mother. I was always available for Little League of Midget football transportation. I taught Sunday school, served on numerous church committees.
Fifty-seven years ago my husband and I endowed a library for our church and for years I spent hours there weekly. A book I bought was Try Giving Yourself Away. It reminded me of Mrs. Ealy.
The local church library opened an opportunity for me to attend the International Church and Synagogue Library Association where I served on the board and did workshops annually throughout the country on new inspirational books, wrote book reviews for the association’s magazine. In Washington, D.C. in 1985 I received the organization’s top award for Outstanding Contribution to Church and Synagogue Libraries. President Ronald Reagan himself sent the group a welcome to Washington. I thought of Mrs. Ealy that day, possibly the person who had the most influence on my life. She taught me the message that all the Beaver churches present on Sunday mornings. We need to serve by giving ourselves away.