Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, Shorelines staff writer
About 400 kids and 100 volunteers packed the sanctuary of the Ponte Vedra Presbyterian Church every morning last week, singing, dancing and praying in one of the Beaches' most popular vacation Bible schools.
The children, dressed in red, blue and yellow T-shirts, clapped and sang along to songs they were learning, then it was off to three hours of crafts, snacks, Bible study and play.
"It's great because it's a community outreach," said Tim Early, co-director of the program. "We have children that don't go to church, children that go to other community churches, and children from Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and from across the ditch [Intracoastal Waterway]."
Ponte Vedra Presbyterian's is one of the largest and most extravagant of about a dozen Bible schools at the Beaches.
About 50 percent of the kids and 25 percent of the volunteers who attended were not members of Ponte Vedra Presbyterian.
"They've heard this is a great vacation Bible school and some come to find out how we do it and take the ideas back to their own church," Early said.
The church has been holding a week-long Bible school for 12 years. The theme this year was Space Probe, the stage in the sanctuary was decorated as a space ship and the Galaxy Girls song and dance troupe led the group sing-alongs from the stage, accompanied by a live band.
Professional musician Don Miniard played keyboards and his son, Austin, 13, played bass guitar. This was Austin's first year in the band.
"I've been in the Bible school since I was 3," he said, "I always liked the music part -- the music's really interactive, we get to jump and spin. If the kids are having fun, they're more attentive. They really teach it in a way the kids can understand."
Donna Worley, the program's music director, and her staff taught the children 13 songs during the week. Some were popular songs she's heard on the radio, and she changed the words to a Bible theme and added simple dance moves.
Carroll Miniard, a teacher at San Pablo Elementary, spent the week as one of the backup singers to the Galaxy Girls.
"It's a ministry," she said, "to watch those kids' faces from the stage when we're singing. If the words of the music reaches one person's heart, then we've done our job."
The hundreds of kids attending were divided into age groups, and the schedule was designed to rotate the groups between singing and storytelling, recreation, arts and crafts and snack time. …