Recently, I learned that Dr. Joyce Sloop, my old Sunday school teacher and mentor, had passed away. We have lost a luminary of a teacher. When I returned to North Carolina after 17 years of living away, one of her students invited me to attend her Sunday school class at my old home church, First Presbyterian in Mooresville. It had been years since I attended any Sunday school, but I decided to give it a try.
Joyce Sloop’s classes were like nothing I had ever experienced. She went over the material like many other teachers, but she did not lecture or repeat the book. She explained what was happening in the background as the events unfolded before our eyes. Many times she would tie in something that the Greeks or Romans did that was a result of something else in the lesson. Not only was she a veritable encyclopedia of information on the Holy Bible, but she was well-versed in English classics and many philosophers especially the German philosopher Hegel. She tied in many works of literature or other arts into the lesson. I traded books with her and she loaned some of hers to me.
Someone without a strong liberal arts education might have trouble keeping up due to the enormity of her knowledge. She encouraged discussion and questions all through the period. Many people like me learn the best when we can ask questions and raise objections or simply have different points of view.
After sampling Joyce’s class, the idea of my going to another Sunday school group would have been a big letdown. The official name for Joyce’s Sunday school class was the “young adults,” but that name seems funny since the youngest person in the room was at least 55. Well at least we were young at heart. Somehow or other that name became the “Rejoice” class. Since her name was Joyce, I thought the “Rejoice” class was a fine choice. It was a rare treat to be in her class because she loved learning and did what all great teachers do. She made learning fun, not work.
Joyce Sloop grew up in tiny Davidson, North Carolina, just south of Mooresville. She received her bachelor’s degree from Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. After a few years of teaching English at West Rowan High School and later North Rowan High School, she commuted to UNC-Greensboro to earn her master’s degree and then her Ph.D. Later, she became the principal at North Rowan, and finally the Mooresville Graded School District hired her to be the principal at Mooresville High School.
My passion for writing is a direct result of my contact with and encouragement by Dr. Joyce Sloop. I used to give her a copy of a story or article that I was writing and she’d put them in her big bag she always carried and would get to it in short order. Then she gave me some much-needed feedback on my writing. Joyce read one of my longer stories, which became a novel, at least four different times. The final work was over 250 pages long. Without her encouragement I’m sure I would have given up on many writing projects long ago.
Joyce Sloop taught her Sunday school class at First Presbyterian Church for over 25 years. How she found the time to be a wife, mother, teacher, principal and Sunday school teacher for that long I’ll never know. Many of her students loved her like one might love a parent or a grandmother. All of us will miss her. But I do know this: she was my teacher, my mentor and my friend. Rest in peace, Joyce Sloop.