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Tattered Players in the Flannelgraph Drama

What Mrs. Williams's quaint presentations taught me about surviving ministry.

The word flannelgraph conjures up memories for anyone who grew up in church a generation ago. Now, in the age of digital video, the old flannelgraph is long retired. But it did teach me something as a child that can never be learned from its electronic successors in Christian education.

Flannelgraphs were large boards wrapped tightly in flannel, usually perched on wooden easels. Mrs. Williams, my second grade Sunday school teacher, told her Bible stories with the children seated on the floor around her. As she introduced each character of the story, she would place a paper figure of that person up on the board. She pressed the figure into the flannel, sliding her long bony fingers back and forth across it. Magically the little paper characters stayed attached to the flannel.

Well, most of them did. Mrs. Williams always had trouble with the apostle Paul. He had been overused in the stories and he didn't smooth out so well. Long ago someone had spilled Kool-Aid on Paul, discoloring his robe. ...

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