HUMBOLDT - Most Wednesday
night Bible studies begin with participants opening the Scriptures.
But lately, members of Humboldt's First Presbyterian Church have
first done something a little different. The lights go off and the
television flickers on as they sit back, relax and prepare to watch an
episode of "The Andy Griffith Show."
The Rev. Paul Means has been heading a Bible study based on the
popular 1960s television series at the church since September. The Bible
study is running through January, with the last one coming up this
It is based on a series of lessons created by Joseph Fann, author of
"The Way Back to Mayberry." Bible study lessons can be obtained from
Fann's Web site,
"I think the Andy Griffith stories all have a beautiful moral that we
can apply to life, and I wish we had more TV programs like that now,"
church member Marian Albright said.
Fann started the "Finding the Way Back to Mayberry" class in 1998 at
Twickenham church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. The Web site is based on
those lessons and others the show's fans have sent in.
At one point, Fann was aware of churches in 35 states and some
foreign countries, including Great Britain and Australia, that have used
lesson plans from the Web site for a Bible study, he said Wednesday in a
He never imagined it would be so popular.
It started as an informal class he thought would help those not used
to going to church who might feel a little intimidated by a traditional
"Again, I think it goes back to people being very familiar with the
show," Fann said. "Even though the town of Mayberry never existed, I
think people were drawn to values that were displayed by the town."
He said at BarneyFife.com that "Basic values such as character,
personal responsibility, honesty, and integrity were routinely
exemplified by the show."
First Presbyterian Church member Jennifer Seals agreed the show's
familiarity attracts people to the Bible study.
"Sometimes, you go to a Bible study, and if you're not as familiar
with the Bible, then you don't say anything," Seals said. "This
presents it in a way that's not intimidating, sort of in a life's
The Bible study was so well-received at Covenant Presbyterian Church
in Jackson, Miss., where Means once was pastor, that he decided to do
the study in Humboldt. Initially, it was to end in December, but class
members voted to extend it through January.
At the first Bible study this month, church members watched the
episode titled "Opie the Birdman." In the show, Opie accidentally kills
a mother bird with a slingshot Barney has just made for him. His dad,
Andy, had warned him to be careful with it.
Andy takes the slingshot from Opie when he learns what has happened
and opens a window in Opie's bedroom so he can hear the birds "chirping
for their mother that's never coming back," Andy tells Opie.
Opie goes on the next day to start digging up "bugs and worms and
things" to feed the three orphaned birds. He keeps them in a cage until
they're old enough and then releases them to fly away.
Leading members in a discussion based on Scriptures, Means spoke in
part about heeding warnings and how saying one is sorry, as Opie does,
doesn't erase the consequences of our actions.
"In light of the fact that we cannot change the past, we still ask
the question, 'By God's grace, how might we make the failures,
disappointments and tragedies of the past redemptive, both in the
present and for the future?'" Means pointed out.
They talked about how Opie didn't become "paralyzed by guilt and
hopelessness" as a result of his actions. Instead, he takes the
initiative and decides to take care of the baby birds himself.
Opie had asked if his Pa would spank him for what he'd done, but Andy
said no. Instead, he opened the window and had Opie listen to the
Means asked what class members thought about that.
"Raising the window and letting him face the consequences of his
action and letting him hear those birds that were hungry was a lot
tougher than getting a whipping," Albright said.
Means added that punishment is not designed to be punitive. It should
be restorative, helping one to learn and to go forward.
Albright said she was reminded how much the show does relate to life
once the Bible study started.
"Andy always seems to have the right approach, most of the time, and
allows Opie to make his own choices, which God does for us," Albright
- Tonya Smith-King