Where I went to elementary school in a small white town in America, parents were given the option of letting their children attend church school once a week. Children who went to church school walked down pleasant sidewalks under leafy maples to a white-steepled church, sat in rows of little wooden chairs, listened to a woman tell stories, and walked back through the leaves again to school. Children who did not would be forced to stay alone in the classroom and study multiplication tables. Such was the Separation of Church and New York State. We were atheists in our home, and I could have used the extra math work, but my parents saw how it was and let me go to church school with the rest.
The woman who told the stories was Mrs Blood, a tiny, wizened woman who, I would honestly guess, must have been born during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, maybe earlier. Mrs Blood illustrated her stories with figures cut from felt that she moved around a felt-covered board on an easel at the front of the room. Here was a felt David throwing a felt rock at a felt Goliath; there was a felt Fallation or something. And we were given little booklets in which to paste paper illustrations of Bible verses we had won for our feats of memorization. I don't recall ever memorizing a verse, and I'm sure I never got a sticker unless it was for sitting quietly, something for which I'm still famous, but you couldn't be kicked out of church school.
Now our own kid gets stories of Pan Jezus Chrystus at school, and it looks as if she has fallen for them. When she pulls out her Christian homework, I make myself scarce, or at least I try not to let anything insincere slip into my smiling at her childish reverent look and sound. I'll let her have Santa, too.
But Mrs Blood, who is by now a tiny hoard of bones and shoes and buttons, will never get me. Not only did I never learn a Bible verse, but I also never picked up all of my multiplication tables. The walks were fine, though.