Sunday, August 28, 2005

Churches supporting public education

Grandview Elementary SchoolToday was the first "Grandview Sunday" at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, a special celebration that grew out of the congregation's partnership with the Grandview Elementary School in Tarentum. On the Sunday before the first day of classes in the Highlands School District, Central Church invited the teachers from Grandview to be present so that we could pray for God's blessing on them and their students for the coming year. The church was honored by the presence of about eight representatives of the Elementary School, including both principals. There was a reception with light refreshments following the service.

Patrick Graczyk, Building Principal, brought greetings to the congregation from the Grandview Elementary School.

As part of the service the members of the congregation joined the Grandview teachers in taking the "Grandview Pledge":
Today I pledge to be a Grandview Star.
I will be kind and courteous because all people deserve respect.
I will do my best and work hard at all times.
I will make good choices because I know I am here to learn and be a responsible citizen.

My sermon, "A ring of stones," referred to my experience of seeing an open air school when I was a child in Africa. I saw children sitting around an old man under a tree, and the space within which they were sitting was marked out by a circle of stones so that people who had business to do outside the circle could behave appropriately in ways that did not disrupt the essential educational activities happening inside the circle.

Although public education's roots in this country go back to the colonies established by the Puritans, it seems to me that religious groups in America have not always shown the correct respect for the essential function of public schools. When the concern should have been to ensure that children learn how to pray in the homes of the faithful, there have been fruitless, energy-draining controversies over inappropriate efforts to try to get the public schools to take over the church's sacred responsibility. I rejoice in the fact that Central Presbyterian Church has discovered opportunities to help the school in work that the school has defined as necessary and which the church recognizes as appropriate to support. A faith group that has a sacred Book benefits when our own children and others are able to read with understanding. A faith group that follows the One who tells us to "count the cost" benefits when our children and our neighbors acquire the skills of critical thinking. There are more than enough opportunities for churches to find common ground with the schools without stirring up unnecessary controversies.

Central Church began its partnership with Grandview as an outgrowth of the Presbyterian Pentecost Offering. We used the local portion of the offering to support the Title I reading program at Grandview when it held a Campfire night this January. The relationship has continued to deepen over time as we have had opportunities to support the good work being done at the school.

According to yesterday's Valley News-Dispatch there were five congregations in the Alle-Kiski Valley (including Central Church) that announced they would do something special to recognize the start of the school year. Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lower Burrell, Millerstown United Methodist Church in Fawn, and the congregations of the New Hope Lutheran Ministries in Vandergrift and Keppel Hill, each had services that included the blessing of backpacks or bookbags.

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2 comments:

Rob said...

Our church prayed for students, teachers, ancillary school folks, and parents today. It was cool!

Stewart said...

Yes, isn't it amazing how doing something simple and positive can feel so refreshing?