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60 years teaching Sunday School ‘comes so naturally after a while’

Mary Jo Looser recently was recognized by Five Points Baptist Church in Northport for teaching Sunday School for 60 years, and while she admitted she felt unprepared some weeks, “it comes so naturally after a while.”

“There were Sundays when I thought, ‘Why, Lord, am I in this position?’ and, ‘What in the world am I going to say today?’ And then there were Sundays when I absolutely could not wait to share the lesson because I had been inspired,” Looser, 86, told The Alabama Baptist.

When she retired from teaching several months ago, she had taught some of the women in the class for as many as 30 years, she said. Through the years, she taught children and college-and-career as well as adult classes, and said she never had to be begged to teach.

“I don’t want to make it appear that teaching is the easiest thing in the world. It isn’t, but it certainly enhanced my walk with the Lord,” Looser said, “knowing every Sunday that I was going to be responsible for a lesson.”

Joy in helping

A graduate of the University of Alabama with a journalism degree, Looser noted she was “privileged to work for two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers,” the Montgomery Advertiser and The Tuscaloosa News, where she was responsible for reporting state news.

“The wonderful thing about newspapering is not so much what you write, but it’s who you write about and who you meet,” Looser said.

She went on to work for the Alabama Department of Public Health, where she continued to write but got to interact with mothers and babies in the maternal and child health program.

“I think one of the real joys of my life was seeing public dollars used in support of our babies,” Looser said, adding that “babies are the future.”

Looser was married to her husband, Dick, until he died 10 years ago, and they have three grown children — two who work in higher education and one who works for Easterseals.

“I think in my years of being a Sunday School teacher, I taught each of the three children when they drifted through primaries, and then one of the real joys was the period that I taught college-and-career along with Dick, and we had our children in class then,” Looser said.

Particularly meaningful to her is when a former student, especially from the college-and-career class, reminisces about learning from her.

When Looser looks back on how her participation in Sunday School started, she remembers walking to church as a little girl, carrying her Sunday School lesson “in a little 5×7 folder.”

‘It was a treasure’

“The front page of that folder was covered with pictures, and the inside had a Bible story. The back had key verses. I remember crying because I dropped my leaflet and I didn’t know where it was. It was a treasure.”

She contrasted that with how life changed by the time she retired from teaching.

“I’m sitting here now, looking across the room at a messy stack of Bibles and reference books, and I think we’re losing something. I can’t imagine crying over losing a book now.”

Looser surmised it could sound strange for some in the world today to think of an 86-year-old attending Sunday School “because they think Sunday School is for children.”

“It really is for children,” she said, “and it really is for adults. It knows no age limit.”

Often, people will hesitate to teach a class when they’re asked, and Looser has some advice for those doing the asking.

“You just have to say, ‘Try it, and then come back and tell me you can’t,’” she said. “I know everybody can’t teach, but you have to try it before you turn it down. We’re commissioned to share the Good News.”

‘Friends are a gift’

Looser said she takes great pleasure in waking up every morning, even as she slows down in her older age.

“When you come closer to the end of your life, friends are a gift,” she said. “If I’ve learned one thing in Sunday School, I’ve learned that having friends is healing, and Sunday School should cultivate friendships.”

It’s especially helpful, Looser said, when people are encouraged “to go into the class they’d like to be in, and as a result, there are some younger people along with the older people.”

Martha Goodwin was taught by Looser for at least 25 years, and said she is devoted to her church and family, and her faith has gotten her through many trials.

“She is very Bible-oriented, and when there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, she always goes to the Bible for her inspiration before she speaks on an issue,” Goodwin said.

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