Illinoisan celebrates 75 years perfect Sunday school attendance
CLAY CITY, Ill. — Seventy-five years ago, June Harrison's mother took her to a family gathering instead of church on Sunday. She immediately regretted the decision and hasn't missed a Sunday since then.
"She said I cried all day because I had to miss Sunday school," said Harrison, who was 3 years old at the time. "After that Sunday, she told herself she would never take me out of Sunday school again."
Harrison, 80, a member of Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, Ill., marked 75 years of perfect Sunday school attendance this year. On the last Sunday in June, her church held a celebration in her honor, but for Harrison, it was "just another Sunday."
"It was never a question in my family or with me, even after I grew up, whether or not I'd go," she said, likening deciding not to go to church on a Sunday to waking up on Monday morning and deciding not to go to work. As impressive as her record is, Harrison doesn't take credit for it.
"God has been so good. I have been blessed so much with good health all my life," Harrison said, adding that she managed to avoid the chickenpox and measles that her five brothers and sisters contracted. "I don't want any glory for myself. It's God's blessing to me."
Her faithfulness extended to weeks she was away from her home church, as well.
"When we were on vacation, we would find a church on Saturday night and then find a motel nearby, so we'd know what time to get up and go to Sunday school the next morning," Harrison said of she and her husband, Russell, who passed away in 2001.
The most difficult times to keep her commitment, Harrison said, have been when she has lost family members. Her mother passed away on a Saturday evening but not before making Harrison promise she'd go to church the next day.
"She said, ‘You're going to Sunday school in the morning, aren't you?' I think she knew she wouldn't live through the night. ... She started to cry and said, ‘You go to Sunday school no matter what happens.'"
Harrison's dedication to her local church began at First Baptist Church in Thompsonville, Ill., where she became a Christian at the age of 13 during a revival service. After 75 years of Sunday school, she still remembers songs and verses she learned as a child and the encouragement of one of her earliest Sunday school teachers to stay faithful in attending church. In particular, Harrison values the dynamic nature of the Bible to reveal new things to her even after so many years of study.
"Through the years, of course I've had repetition on lessons and it seems like each time, something different is brought out in the Scriptures that maybe I didn't catch the other time we had that lesson," she said.
Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director Nate Adams helped Harrison and FBC, Clay City celebrate the milestone by presenting her with a plaque from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Mrs. Harrison's faithful commitment to Sunday school over the years and to the life-changing dynamic of group Bible study is an inspiration to all of us," Adams said. "Her love for God's Word is evident in her sweet spirit and fruitful life, and her testimony reminds me that effective Bible teaching is one of the most important ministries a church can provide."
Along with the plaque, Harrison added a new pin to a ribbon that holds an anniversary award for each year of perfect attendance. The ribbon has grown to be more than three feet long, but recognition isn't her main motivator, Harrison said.
"I stop and think what He did for me, what He did for us, dying on the cross, and it seems like such a small thing to attend services for Him, to worship Him," she said. "I've just been so blessed through the years."
David Francis, LifeWay's director of Sunday school, discipleship, church and network partnerships, said, "Mrs. Harrison is a wonderful example of the truth that weekly fellowship around God's Word through Sunday school is an experience we can enjoy for a lifetime - from birth to heaven. It reminds me of the line from the hymn I Love to Tell the Story: ‘...for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest....'"
Meredith Day is a specialist in the communication ministries area for the Illinois Baptist State Association.