Now in its 122nd year, Menninger Bible Class prepares for a new session

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When she thinks of the 122-year history of the Menninger Bible Class, Clara Gamache admits she is more than a little impressed.

“It’s unbelievable to me that it lasted this long,” said Gamache, 71, of Topeka. “How many Bible studies lasted 122 years?

Gamache has been instrumental in continuing Bible study, serving as a teacher for the class since 2016.

She completed the last four-year class in August, with nine women graduating from the course. She said attendance had remained steady for the four years of the class: “Every time someone left,” she said, “someone else came in.”

After a six-month hiatus, the Menninger Bible Class will resume at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 16 at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave. Participants will begin with the first book of the Menninger Bible study.

Gamache said the class is a great opportunity for people to learn more about the Bible.

“There’s so much wisdom in that word,” she says. “People don’t know the word anymore. Therefore, they do not have the wisdom of the word.

Gamache attends El Shaddai Templo De Alabanza, a church at 1248 SW Buchanan. She took the four-year Menninger Bible Course before beginning to teach it.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the course,” she said, “and the quality of the people who took it.”

Gamache said the class that ended last August had students from a variety of religious faiths.

Although that class is over, she said, many of its members still meet for coffee once a month.

The “Four Years Through the Bible” course was started in 1898 in Topeka by Flo V. Menninger, the mother of famous psychiatrists Karl, William and Edwin Menninger – the founders of the Menninger Clinic.

The course began at Flo Menninger’s home in Topeka, but was soon based at the Topeka YWCA at her request. At the time, the YWCA was one of the few places in Topeka where black and white women could meet.

Soon after its launch, the course spread to Kansas and other states — and even other countries.

Gamache said the class at one point had as many as 2,500 students enrolled at one time.

The course is divided into four parts: Year 1 — “From genesis to the first kings”; Year 2 – “Second Kings to Malachi”; Grade 3 — “The Life of Christ”; and Year 4—“Acts, Apostles, and Revelation.” Student notebooks were printed for each year.

At its core, Menninger’s Bible course focuses on a Bible reading, with students answering questions about the text. The Course deliberately stays away from theological interpretations.

Because it is non-denominational and non-proselytizing in nature, the class offered students from all backgrounds the opportunity to engage in small group Bible studies.

Gamache said Menninger Bible classes are also offered at a few churches in Topeka.

She said each class lasts about 1⅟₂ hours. Homework consists of answering between 60 and 90 questions per week.

“They need time,” Gamache said of the students. “They’re going to need three or four hours a week.”

For those worried about committing to four years in the classroom, Gamache said, individuals “can always quit if they find it’s not working for their schedule.”

However, she added, “Whatever time they choose to give it, the payoff will last a lifetime.”

The cost of the Menninger Bible Study book is $25 per year, Gamache said.

Otherwise, there is no cost to take the course.

For more information, call or text Gamache at 785-559-8776.

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