Learning to preserve God's creation
At two Qcity churches this summer, the focus is on green.
No, not money. Rather, the environment.
Earlier this month at Mt. Moriah Primitive Baptist Church, the theme for vacation Bible school was “Go Green for Jesus.” And currently at First Baptist Church-West, a six-week summer program is centering on water conservation with the theme, “Streams of Living Water.”
The idea, organizers say, is to reinforce a biblical concept: that the Earth belongs to God and is therefore worth preserving.
Organizers from both programs acknowledge that mixing Christianity and conservation is, for some, a new concept in the African American church.
“It is hard incorporating this idea into the black church because it is new,” said Carolyn Ingram, Mt. Moriah’s vacation Bible school director.
At Mt. Moriah, students learned about recycling, solar power, wind power and water conservation issues. The theme and curriculum were developed by nationally based Urban Ministries, which has developed a package of lesson plans for churches conducting summer Bible schools.
Biblical references for the curriculum begin in the book of Genesis, with believing in God and taking care of his creation, and end in the book of Revelation, where students are taught to prepare for the future by being responsible now.
The thematic verse for the program is Psalms 24:1 -- “The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”
Ingram said the learning groups also included adult class.
When the church received the curriculum, she said, she instructed teachers to develop their own ideas to help students identify with lesson plans. One of those teachers, Deacon James Kirkpatrick, developed his own theory of what it means to be green.
“If you are green, you always have room to grow, so if you stay green you’re in a growing process at all times,” said Kirkpatrick, who taught adults who he affectionately said are still green.
The teenage group also had some strong thoughts on what it means to be green for Jesus.
“To go green for Jesus means you are caring for the earth that God built,” said 15-year-old Honoree Brewton. “(Vacation Bible school) helps us be aware of what is going on around us in the environment and what we can do to help it,” she added.
While the big kids and adults discussed environmental issues, the younger groups, from ages 2 through elementary school, worked on projects using environmentally safe materials.
Although the number of attendees at the Mt. Moriah VBS grew each evening, part of the program’s success will be measured by how it impacts the church.
Some students suggested planting flowers around the church and turning off lights when leaving certain areas.
Ingram said she hopes the program will make kids more conscientious of the world around them and simultaneously teach them to preserve God’s house.
“We’re teaching them how to act in church and how to take care of the church as well as guiding them through the Bible lessons that are planned for us as part of (Urban Ministries),” she said.
Meanwhile, about two miles down the road, First Baptist Church-West recently kicked off its six-week Clara H. Jones Summer Institute using the same go-green principles. The theme "Streams of Living Water" is the focus in each of the institute’s subjects -- fine arts and S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
This marks the second consecutive year that the institute has used an environmental theme with a curriculum developed by a consultant from the NC School of Science and Math in Durham. Last summer’s theme was “The Earth Is The Lord’s.”
During that session, students learned about solar, coal, petroleum and uranium energy. Middle school students organized a recycling drive and all students conducted low-cost activities such as solar cooking s'mores. Students were evaluated every two weeks on their STEM studies and ended with an average 88% passing rate.
Patsy Burkins, the institute’s executive director, said last year’s success is what prompted the church to repeat the green theme this year. She added that it also helps that President Obama has been calling for more sustainability efforts nationwide.
“As blacks, we’re not always in the forefront as far as taking care of the environment,” she said, “especially considering that some of us live in neighborhoods that people say need it the most.”
About 150 students in grades 1 through 9 are currently enrolled in the Summer Institute.
Burkins said that because going green is now considered cutting edge, it’s important to get communities of color out in the lead. Issues such as water shortages in Africa and locally, as well as the Gulf Coast oil spill make the focus even more timely.
Added Burkins: "The beauty of this is that we can touch our children spiritually and academically while also keeping them very much grounded in what's happening in the world around them."
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