• What: Free community meal, prayer service and fundraiser.
• Hixson: 6-7:30 p.m. Sunday, Hixson Middle School gymnasium, 5681 Old Hixson Pike.
• Signal Mountain: 5:45 p.m. Sept. 30, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, 2650 Sam Powell Drive. Reservations required. Call 648-0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some three dozen churches will come together Sunday and Sept. 30 to support Bible history classes in four public schools.
This is the fourth year in which area churches have worked together with organizer Bible in the Schools to raise funds for such classes.
Sunday's event at Hixson Middle School will raise funds for classes at Hixson High School and Hixson Middle School. The Sept. 30 event is an effort to renew the three-year commitment made in 2009 to fund classes at Signal Mountain Middle/High and The Howard School.
"I have been encouraged by the way these multiple communities have stepped up to support Bible history classes in these local schools," said Ralph Mohney Jr., president of Bible in the Schools. "I'm delighted in the broadening of that support and in the expansion of the number of students who have the opportunity."
The gatherings were begun in 2009 by Signal Mountain parents who wanted to fund the classes in the community's new school.
The group, said Mohney, wanted to do more, so it added a missional component to also fund classes at Howard, which also had expressed a desire to have the electives.
Subsequent annual community gatherings funded classes at the new East Hamilton Middle/High, as well as Tyner Academy in 2010 and Brainerd High School in 2011.
"What we've found," Mohney said, "goes beyond funding of Bible history. It's the wonderful way in which these events have unified people across racial, denominational and cultural lines. It's the wonderful spirit that has flowed and the unity that has not existed in the past."
The original Signal Mountain gathering raised $395,000 of the $450,000 needed for a three-year commitment, he said, and the renewal of one-year pledges made at the time brought in enough to fully fund the classes at Signal Middle/High and Howard.
Mohney said he believes the vast majority of people who pledged initially will renew their commitments and that this year's event will "be more effective in reaching a broader group."
Churches in the vicinity of The Howard School, for instance, will participate in the program and are likely to provide monetary support.
"They'll be more involved as partners," he said.
The plan for the Hixson gathering, said Mohney, is to fund teachers already at both the high school and middle school.
"The feeling was that the communities should support the teaching of Bible at their local schools -- that they would more or less adopt the existing teachers," he said. "That would free up funds for other schools whose communities may not be so financially blessed."
Currently, 14,500 students in 20 Hamilton County middle and high schools have the opportunity to select Bible history as an elective through the Bible in the Schools program. Another 6,500 students in 17 schools do not have access to the classes.
Where the program would expand, Mohney said, would depend on which communities wanted the classes and if they would fit in the particular schools' curriculum.
If that's the case in a particular community, he said, "we can help them."
In the meantime, Mohney said, it makes sense to study the "most influential book in the world."
"There's value for every study to have some exposure to it," he said.
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.