Churches want to provide after-school care, religious instruction for city students

March 09, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

They can't teach religious faith inside public schools -- the separation of church and state prohibits that -- but some local women want to deliver Christianity to city children after school.

"We're talking about 110,000 children in Baltimore public schools," said Fannie B. Poulson, coordinator of a program that is asking city churches to open their doors whenever the school day ends early. "From what I understand, I would say about 60 percent of these youngsters are in need of this type of education that we're advocating."

The program, to be launched March 22, was outlined yesterday during a news conference at Macedonia Baptist Church and is spearheaded by the Maryland League of Women's Clubs, an organization of sororities and other groups of African-American women.

Mrs. Poulson, the league's first vice president, said Macedonia Baptist tried the idea last October when students were dismissed after a half day of classes at three nearby schools. Organizers distributed fliers, drawing 400 children for a 75-minute service, she said.

Children patiently sat through a prayer service, Bible reading and an inspirational message, she added. "Many of these children told us on a form we passed out that they had never been to church before."

Mrs. Poulson said organizers are asking city churches to "adopt" nearby schools for the program, which she said would be named either "One Church, One School" or "Church Adopt a School."

Gwendolyn Q. Kellam, the league's president, said the program gives churches an opportunity to become more involved in helping African-American children. "It's just sad to see a lot of young kids just wasting their lives away."

Minister Doug Wilson, a supporter, said that although children would hear messages of religious faith, the children also would help design each program. "This is not a preachy type of event."

City police also have lent their endorsement, said Maj. Victor D. Gregory of the Neighborhood Patrol Bureau. "To be honest, a child in church is one less child that's not delinquent," he said.

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