by Kathy Schlittenhart
The Shalom Sunday school class has a long and colorful history. The story begins way back in the early 1950s with about ten in attendance. Hubert and Vivian Thornburg, much-loved members of the NFC community, were the original leaders of the class. I interviewed Vivian, now 93 and living at Friendsview, for information about the class’s history. As many of you know, Hubert went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago.
As they began the class, Hubert and Vivian saw that often the people who came needed prayer, so they decided to do something different: they put an empty chair at the front of the room so that if anyone had a prayer request to share, they could come and sit in the chair. They called it the “Prayer Chair.” That chair became a very important part of the class, and over the years they saw many wonderful answers to prayer.
Vivian recalled one Sunday when a man came forward and sat in the chair and requested prayer for a friend of his in California, a young woman who was near death. He was distressed for her because she was young and very gifted. The class prayed earnestly for her and she was healed. Three weeks later she came up to Newberg to visit the class who had prayed for her to thank them for their prayers. That was a day of celebration for the class and greatly increased their faith in the power of prayer. Vivian said that was just one of many memorable answers to prayer that they saw in the class.
As Hubert taught, the class grew until at one point there were eighty in the class and they had trouble finding a room to meet. So the church asked that they split the class in two. Vivian said that was a difficult experience because all of them had grown very close, not only on Sunday, but fairly often they met for holiday events, parties, and other events. They had fun together. The mission of the class was “caring for others,” a mission they lived out as part of NFC’s growing community.
Over the years the class size changed, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller. Then in 1978 Hubert and Vivian were called as pastors to a Friends church in Salem, so they were gone for about ten years. When they returned, they again taught the class until about the year 2000 when they retired and later moved to Friendsview.
At that time the Shalom class changed and morphed into what it is today. The members elected not to have a teacher but to have a round-table discussion class with each person sharing. It’s actually a Quaker-style Bible study class now. We choose a book of the Bible and focus on one chapter each Sunday. We bring our reference books and commentaries so that we can research questions as we discuss the chapter.
We have lively discussions interspersed with thoughtful silence at times. No theological issue is off limits, but we tread with sensitivity and grace through controversial issues; we don’t argue. Biblical history, the character of God, doctrine, the meaning of words, and references to other Scriptural passages are interwoven throughout our discussion. People have come and gone, and currently our class is somewhat small, but I love being part of the Shalom class; we all look forward each week to focusing specifically on a chapter of the Bible with its vibrant message for today. Our goal is for the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. We are nearing the end of Isaiah at this time and have decided that our next book to study will be 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Anyone is welcome to come and join us. We meet in Room 238 at about 9 a.m. or a little after. If you would like more information about the class, you may contact Mark Martin, Kati Voth, Susan or Kuen Lee, or me. This is one of the many places at NFC where ministry indeed happens.