The Department of Christian Faith in Action hosted their annual luncheon on Thursday at noon, and this year a panel presented on specific diocesan churches and their partnerships with local public schools.
Included in the panel were the Rev. Patrick Gahan and Ruth Berg, Christ Church, San Antonio; the Rev. Ripp Hardaway, St. John’s, New Braunfels; the Rev. Jay George, Grace Church, San Antonio; the Rev. Stockton Williams and Dave Weekly, St. Peter’s, Kerrville; the Rev. Robert Woody and Abby Richards, Reconciliation, San Antonio; and Jennifer Cook, youth specialist with Good Samaritan Community Services.
Each of the churches have developed relationships with various local public elementary schools, mentoring students, providing school supplies, and encouraging teachers. Reconciliation presented on their summer enrichment program for Serna Elementary, which is in its 5th year, and serves at-risk children for five weeks each summer. The program employs the public school teachers to teach instruction in math and reading. Food is provided by the San Antonio Food Bank, and after hours constructed play is hosted by college interns.
Both St. John’s, New Braunfels, and Christ Church, San Antonio, are involved in music ministry with public school students. Christ Church has lovingly welcomed students from James Madison Elementary in their children’s choir. Fourth and 5th grade students are bussed to the church once a week for choir practice. At the same time 3rd grade students are brought over for one-on-one or one-on-two tutoring by church volunteers. St. John’s provides the funds for low-income children to take part in violin classes taught by a local music teacher. They also host the music recitals. “We want to help these kids in any way we can, and give them a hand up. Studies have shown a musical education does this,” said Hardaway.
Speaking for the whole group, George said, “This partnership allows us to serve our neighbors, to reach people outside of our church. We have come alongside Monroe May Elementary, which is already doing great work, to assist them and be a resource for them.”
Woody said another substantial benefit of a church-school relationship is the encouragement provided for the teachers. “Because of school funding cutbacks and an emphasis on school test scores, teachers’ morale is low,” he said. During the summer enrichment program, these teachers are able to just teach – with no stats to record or no test scores to meet. However, Serna Elementary has reported improved test scores from 2013 to 2014 with passing percentage increases in math and reading. The principal at Serna has said one of the main factors to this success is the summer enrichment program by Reconciliation.
Cook provided information on the Good Samaritan Community Services Camp Good Sam programs that take place in 7 cities throughout the diocese. These 6-week long programs provide an educational program based on a popular children’s book for at-risk kids during the summer.
The entire panel was in agreement that each of them and each volunteer has received much more than they have given. And considering the benefit to and the impact on the children, which is often shown through bright smiles and pride with academic accomplishments, good work is being done.
For more information from any of these schools, contact Jill Oettinger, chair of the CFA department,