Presbyterians can help to ensure ‘equitable, accessible, quality education’
by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The Educate a Child, Transform the World initiative is encouraging congregations to find ways to support public education as school districts wrestle with how to best serve students during the global pandemic.
The initiative’s Education Roundtable extended an invitation to churches during a webinar earlier this week led by the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, convener of Educate a Child.
“There are many ways that congregations can support education, and we want to help you engage in those ways,” said Johnson, the coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP). Collectively, “we have the power to do the kinds of things needed to create an opportunity for hope and transformation in our communities.”
Johnson also stressed the importance of all students having access to quality public education and said congregations should be engaged in helping to make that possible, regardless of whether there are children in their churches.
“We, as the church, can be the people that God has called us to be in Matthew 25, to be the disciples of hope that are active and caring for young people today, especially in a time of triple pandemics,” he said, referring to COVID-19, racism and poverty. “God calls us, in this time and this hour, to be engaged and see the face of Jesus Christ in our young people.”
The Rev. Dave Brown, a member of the roundtable and the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington, spoke about the importance of loving thy neighbor and bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots.
“Jesus’s concern for the least of these demands that we address the inequities in our schools,” Brown said. “Churches in affluent neighborhoods need to look at the schools in the less-affluent neighborhoods. We need to unpack and change the systemic racism that is alive and well in the way we fund and care for our students.”
One of the ways that churches can help is by adopting Educate a Child’s Congregational Covenant. It calls for embracing these child-advocacy ministries, according to the document:
- Direct service: Providing concrete ministries that embody God’s compassion and commitment to meet the needs of children and youth, especially those who are vulnerable, discounted and marginalized.
- Consciousness raising: Joining the journey of solidarity by seeking to understand the root causes of injustice through critical examination and reflection on the most pressing challenges of children and families living in at-risk settings.
- Systemic Change: Working for social transformation, with an emphasis on root causes, and joining the Spirit’s work of shaping a world more consistent with God’s best intention for all people.
- Christian Disciplines help propel, ground and sustain the work of justice with and for children and their families. An example would be committing to personally pray for children, families, teachers, administrators and local schools.
The Covenant, highlighted by roundtable member Rebecca Davis during the webinar, also includes a mission statement that says, “Educate a Child calls Presbyterians to our common commitment to join in God’s ongoing transformation of the world by working and advocating to ensure equitable, accessible, quality education so that all people, created in the image of God, may grow into the fullness of life.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of supporting public education as reflected in the 2010 report “Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K-12),” which was approved by the 219th General Assembly. Among other things, it recommitted “the PC(USA) to the principle of equal educational opportunity for all children in the United States” and affirmed “them all as our children, neighbors in our care.”
The report also stressed the importance of children receiving a holistic education that allows them to lead meaningful and productive lives.
“A holistic education equips the student to live fully in the world, to appreciate Creation, science, history, to be an effective citizen, to understand their bodies and live a life of meaning and purpose,” Brown said during this week’s webinar. “That’s the heart of what the denomination affirmed about public schools 10 years ago. The educational covenant is a way for a congregation to live into those principles and to be present in our communities.”
Dr. Wanda Beauman, a roundtable member and past moderator of Denver Presbytery, talked about technological barriers that students face, such as lack of internet access, during a time when COVID-19 has forced many schools to turn to online learning. That’s something churches might be able to help address by speaking with the local school board or opening their doors from 3-5 p.m. on weekdays to let students use the church’s Wi-Fi to do school work.
“There’s so much that we need to be aware of; there’s so much to do,” Beauman said. “I would say think out of the box. I would say be creative. I would say bring your energy and your passion of faith to whatever the situation is.”
Did you miss the webinar? Watch it here.
The Educate a Child, Transform the World initiative is supported by your gifts to the Pentecost Offering. The work of Self-Development of People is made possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. SDOP is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
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Categories: Education, Matthew 25, Special Offerings, Youth
Tags: 219th general assembly (2010), compassion peace & justice, congregational covenant, covid-19, Educate a Child, education, education roundtable, immanuel presbyterian church tacoma washington, loving our neighbors: equity and quality in public education, matthew 25, One Great Hour of Sharing, pentecost offering, Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, rev. dave brown, rev. dr. alonzo johnson, webinar
Ministries: Educate a Child Toolkit, Educate a Child, Transform the World, Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, Special Offerings