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Nurturing Sanctuary

Community Capacity Building in African American Churches

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Townsand Price-Spratlen

How are predominantly African American churches meeting the needs of young people? What resources of, and tensions in, faith leadership are shaping answers to this and other related questions? Nurturing Sanctuary analyzes ways in which the two most vital institutions of the Black experience – families and churches – are working with schools and health providers to respond to contemporary challenges and improve the twenty-first century life chances of African Americans and others. Data were generated from a four-year collaboration of eighteen churches, public health professionals, service learning students, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Eighty parents and pastors, and over 400 teenagers in a large, Midwestern city specified strategies of action in their daily lives and how they use them to respond, more and less successfully, to their many life challenges. Nurturing Sanctuary explores three capacity-building themes that emerged and critiques diverse Sacred and secular resources being developed and used. Finally, it specifies innovative best practices that are enriching faith-health relationships among religiously active persons, and all others with whom they interact within and beyond sanctuary walls.
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Chapter 1. Community Capacity Building in an Age of Faith? Pedagogy and Tensions of Nurturing Sanctuary

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Pedagogy and Tensions of Nurturing Sanctuary

Culture comes from the Latin word cultus, which means “to care for.” At its heart, it has to do with growth: of crops (as in the word “cultivate”), or of peoples. Culture is a set of [symbolic and material] ideas, practices, and rituals that help human beings develop morally, intellectually, and spiritually.

— Terrance MacMullan1

The Negro of America needs an Age of Faith. All great ages are ages of faith. It is absolutely necessary for a new people to begin their career with the religious verities…. Christianity is contrary to the spirit of caste—spiritual kinship transcends all other relations…. No matter what destiny awaits the race, religion is necessary either as a solvent or as a salve.

—W. E. B. Du Bois2

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