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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 4. The Erotic in the Faith Socialization of Black Churches

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There is such a disconnect between our faith and our daily life. And that is where religion comes in. So Black youth just learn how to be religious and not deal with all the issues they are going through. But I have that openness in my church. Very much so. Even in the way of discussing sexuality. And even though we once weren’t allowed to [speak of sexuality in the church]. But the pastor realized we are living in a world where people have those [sexual] secrets that do need to be heard.

—Carlyle Hampton, Youth Pastor Cathedral Redeemer Church

Today, the prevailing culture in Black churches is still one of silence, repression, denial, miseducation…. When it comes to talking about sex in Black faith institutions, many of our churches are in real trouble, insecure and inarticulate in matters of human intimacy…. A frank new discussion about sexuality and the sacred including women and men, gay and straight, young and old, students and faculty, laity and clergy, is urgently needed.

—Alton B. Pollard III1

This chapter analyzes how parents and pastors teach the relationship(s) between religion and the erotic in the socialization of African American ← 89 | 90 → teenagers. As Pastor Hampton observed, the faith engagements and ritual of religious affiliation are too often disconnected from one’s sexual self and from other life aspects understood as taboo and responded to as necessary secrets unto one’s faith life. This artificial separation of the...

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