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Nurturing Sanctuary

Community Capacity Building in African American Churches


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 3. Reflecting Faith: Service Learning and Community-Engaged Pedagogy

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Service Learning and Community-Engaged Pedagogy

Before I left I went around and talked to some of the [health agency] volunteers. I thanked them for allowing us to participate. It was awesome to see how important the event—as well as the congregation and community—is to them…. What I also thought was interesting was the [church’s] sense of family. Everyone looked out for everyone else. Whether the kids were theirs or not…. The whole experience was quite different than anything I’d done. My church is very traditional and not too exciting. But this congregation was exciting and fun. They made me feel more welcome than my own congregation has done to any outsiders. I’m very grateful for the experience…. In the future I’d like to get more involved and volunteer in other community projects.

— Susan G.Active Faith SLI student volunteer

Effective citizenship should include an ability to analyze problems and engage in action…. Concrete experience moves to reflective observation… then to abstract conceptualization, and back for more experience…. These capabilities are developed through the combination of active engagement and reflection [to] impact student development [in] a continuous learning cycle.

—Janet Eyler1

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