Topeka — When “The Andy Griffith Show” first aired in 1960, its producers and actors probably had no idea the program would run in perpetuity or that it would someday serve as the basis for Bible studies in churches across America.
Yet more than 50 years after the series debuted on CBS-TV, “The Andy Griffith Show” continues to air on television — and in some unlikely places, such as church basements, where Bible studies based on the program take place.
In Topeka, Mater Dei-Assumption Catholic Church is showing the program on Sundays during Lent, with an informal Bible study and discussion time following.
A classic black-and-white episode is shown each Sunday night through April 17 — Palm Sunday — on a large screen in the church basement.
Afterward, group leader Dan Tritsch, a member of the Mater Dei church, leads a Bible study, complete with Bible verses and discussion questions related to the episode.
On a recent Sunday night, about 50 people sat at tables and munched on popcorn while watching an episode based on Andy misunderstanding the intent of his son, Opie, in wanting to hold onto his money and only contributing 3 cents to a school drive for underprivileged children.
Near the end of the program, Andy finds out Opie wants to save his money to buy a new coat for a girl in his school, whose mother didn’t have enough money to buy her a new one.
The Bible study that followed the show used a Scripture passage from Matthew 7 in which Jesus tells his listeners not to judge others.
Attendees commented that the show sent a message of owning up to a mistake and asking for forgiveness.
“The Andy Griffith Show,” Tritsch said, has retained a timelessness for a half century, in large part because of its themes that center on morality and values.
“I’ve been a big ‘Mayberry’ fan all my life,” Tritsch, 57, said before the program began. “It’s a good, clean program you can show to church people. Some of the things on TV these days you can’t play in front of kids, and we have a lot of kids here tonight.”
Tritsch said he found out about Andy Griffith-related Bible studies online. He purchased some Bible studies on the Internet and bought the corresponding episodes on eBay.
The church also showed “The Andy Griffith Show” during Advent last December, with about 50 people attending each session.
The Rev. Jon Hullinger, Mater Dei pastor, assisted Tritsch with selecting “Andy Griffith Show” episodes that had Lenten themes.
Charlotte Konrad, 87, a church member, said she attended the shows and discussions in December.
“I enjoyed it,” Konrad said. “That’s why I came back.”
Linda Finch, who said she was “over 60,” said she enjoyed watching “The Andy Griffith Show” when it first aired in the 1960s.
“I like the shows, because they don’t have any sex or violence in them,” she said. “It’s good, clean fun.”
Even younger attendees picked up on the show’s message and themes.
“I liked how it showed how Andy judged somebody before he knew all the facts about it,” said Jared Koopman, 12, a sixth-grader at Mater Dei School. “It showed that it isn’t good to jump to conclusions.”