Faith leaders: Churches should be partnering with schools, helping youth

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At a Tuesday breakfast meeting sponsored by Chicago Public Schools, Black ministers collectively said the church must play a greater role in helping youth stay off the streets.

At a Tuesday breakfast meeting sponsored by Chicago Public Schools, Black ministers collectively said the church must play a greater role in helping youth stay off the streets. The annual back to school interfaith gathering, held at U.S. Cellular Field, was well attended by Black ministers, faith-based organizations and city leaders including Mayor Richard M. Daley. “We need the church because our children need spiritual guidance,” Daley said. “Education is the key. Where will kids go if they do not have an education? They will probably end up in prison and we have too many young people in prisons now.” The Rev. Jolinda Wade, pastor of Temple of Praise Binding and Loosing Ministries on the South Side, said more churches should open its doors after school so children can have their extracurricular time there. “Churches are sanctuary places for everyone. Churches play a very important role in the community. We ought not wait for children to come to us for help. We need to go to the schools offering our assistance,” Wade, the mother of Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade, told the Defender. “Back when I was growing up churches were the social centers for the community and we need to get back to doing that.” She added that with the assistance of her wealthy son she plans to soon build a youth wing to the church called the City of Hope W3. Another solution the religious community suggested to Daley and Ron Huberman, chief executive officer for CPS, is expanding the summer Safe Haven program. “Churches are critical to the community and the success of the Safe Haven program should go on all year,” said the Rev. Renaldo Kyles, director of the Interfaith office for CPS and assistant pastor of Mt. Herman Baptist Church in East Chicago, Ind. The Rev. Walter Turner, pastor of New Spiritual Light Baptist Church on the South Side, agreed that programs like Safe Haven work. “It is the church’s duty to make sure children are safe. We have got to do more to reach out to them and the Safe Haven program is one way to successfully reach youth while teaching them and keeping them safe at the same time.” Legally, public schools cannot teach religion to students or have religious materials in the classroom. However, this should not stop parents from taking their children to church, said the Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, pastor of Bethlehem Star Church on the South Side. “Parents need to pray with their children and bring them to church so they can be spiritually grounded during the day when they are at school where religion is not allowed,” he told the Defender. “Churches play such a vital role in the community so it is only natural to partake in an institution with such great community influence.” Huberman said 42 churches and 1,300 children participated in the five-week Safe Haven program. “And we did not lose one child to violence. Not one,” Huberman  pointed out. “It just goes to show that when schools partner with churches the results are good. This type of success is something we want to duplicate in other areas as we work together to find ways to educate our children and keep them out of harm’s way.” Daley said the strong support CPS received from churches for the Safe Haven program showed that “churches have faith in our kids and the system.” Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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