Welcome Back to Snake-Handling Preschool!


Dear Parents,

It’s September again, and you know what that means—back-to-school time! We’re so pleased that you’ve entrusted the education of your little one to the Church of God the Redeemer Preschool. As the only fully accredited snake-handling worship center in the tri-state area, we here at CGR understand our unique role in nourishing your child’s mind and spirit.

While most school policies are outlined in our brochure, “There are No Small Sins, Only Small Sinners” (check your mailbox), please keep the following in mind as we prepare for what’s sure to be an uplifting year:

• Drop off time is 9:30 a.m., with pickup at 2:00 p.m. sharp. Remember: God loathes the habitually tardy!

• Dress code: children are required to wear collared shirts, clean slacks or skirts, and reinforced, knee-high leather boots (no sandals!).

• In addition to safety scissors, Elmer’s Glue, and a 64-count box of crayons, please make sure your child’s knapsack contains at least one pediatric tourniquet, available at most medical supply stores and the I-34 Walmart.

• We ask that all students bring Kleenex for the classroom. Additionally, children whose last names begin with A-M should bring a 64-ounce bottle of Bactine, while those with names N-Z are asked to furnish gauze.

• The Lord loves volunteers, so sign up early! Our fall fiesta is just around the corner, so we expect all you moms and dads to bring in lots of cupcakes, fruit punch, and cookies. Also, anti-venom.

• As announced, we’re taking a broader approach to language arts this year. In addition to discussing The Little Golden Book of Sodom and Gomorrah, youngsters will be encouraged to “think outside the box” by making freeform Play-Doh sculptures of Hell.

• Finally, nothing matters as much to CGR as your child’s eternal soul. Through interactive Bible teaching, dramatic play, and the regular taking up of serpents, we intend to nurture God’s tiniest henchmen. And if the unworthy walk among us—as they surely do—don’t worry. We’ll find them. Anaphylaxis doesn’t lie.

So let’s make this the best school year ever. Get your youngsters to bed early, make sure they drink plenty of milk, and have those liability waivers notarized!

Tetanus boosters couldn’t hurt, either.

See you next week!

Yours in Him,

Donna Magdalene

Director, Toddler Program

This piece originally appeared in the White Shoe Irregular.

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When the Snakes Go Marching In

I’m a serious animal lover. Not only did I stop eating them more than two decades ago, I also don’t wear them or buy products made from—or tested on—them. I’ve even implemented a comprehensive catch-and-release program for any and all vermin captured in our house, including stinkbugs.

Like I said, I love animals.

But snakes are different.

From their scaly coolness and flicking tongues to their And-Starring-In-The-Role-Of-Satan theatrical résumé, snakes have an endless capacity to freak me out.

So when my 9-year-old son, Sam, asked if he and I could take the “For Goodness Snakes” class at the new Catoctin Creek Nature Center in Middletown, I did what any other overworked, overtired parent-who-just-wants-five-minutes-of-peace-at-the-end-of-the-day-for-crying-out-loud would do.

I said, “Sure,” while secretly hoping he’d forget all about it.

Well, he didn’t.

Which is why we found ourselves sitting cross-legged on the floor of the immaculate new Frederick County facility not long ago as a knowledgeable staffer introduced us and a dozen fellow participants to some of Maryland’s indigenous slitherers.

Boasting species like the black rat snake, corn snake, milk snake, and Eastern garter snake, the Free State is literally crawling with all things unholy and reptilian.

Not that our instructor used those exact words to describe her charges.

Inexplicably, she threw around adjectives like “sweet” and “adorable” as the various critters knitted themselves around her arms while I scooted waaaaaaaaay back and mentally calculated my vertical leap.

Calm and enthusiastic, she reminded the excited, chirping kiddos and their squeamish moms and dads that snakes are much more afraid of us than we are of them.

(Unless the snakes, too, needed a glass of wine after class, that last part clearly wasn’t true.)

Still, the program itself was fun, interesting, inexpensive, and a pretty cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Did it make me want to get in touch with my slithery side or spend more time around Mother Nature’s legless wonders?


But did it reinforce my already firm “live and let live” ideals and give me newfound respect for snakes’ ability to adapt and thrive around skittish, bombastic humans? Absolutely.

And did it ultimately, upon further reflection and personal growth on my part, cause me to revisit my no-snakes-as-pets policy for Sam?

Absolutely not.

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