2006-04-18 Herald-Sun: community church

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'Community' the word for outreach church

  • dvaughanspam@spamheraldsunspam.spamcom
  • Apr 18, 2006 : 8:06 pm ET

DURHAM -- No denomination is attached to the name of this Lincoln Street church.

What follows the words "First Chronicles" is not "Baptist" or "AME" nor united anything. The word instead is "community."

First Chronicles Community Church reaches out beyond its sanctuary doors to help neighboring men and women of all ages.

One way the church leadership -- married pastors -- does that is through an afterschool youth program. Joining the pastors a few days a week are other members of the community from an institution only a few blocks away: N.C. Central University.

First Chronicles is one field site option for NCCU seniors in the university's social work program. The afterschool program is held weekdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The NCCU students help out as tutors and mentors on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For the kids, it is a time to learn and have fun.

For their parents, it is knowledge that their children are in a safe, positive environment.

For the college students, it is practical application of what they've spent the past three years learning about in a classroom.

Single parent Jerry Erwin takes his three sons -- ages 12, 14 and 16 -- to the afterschool program and another church program for youth called Another Way Ministries.

Erwin said the programs help the children feel better about themselves and he has noticed a positive change in their attitudes.

About 15 children and youths -- from kindergarten through high school -- attend the afterschool program, which is open to all neighborhood kids whose parents register them. Transportation is provided from adjoining housing complexes.

L.J. Ramseur, 11, a sixth-grader at Shepard Middle School, has attended First Chronicles afterschool for two years.

"It's fun here," he said, "because after we get our homework done, we get to play games and talk to each other."

Social work student Robin McColler said she liked the program so much that she now takes four of her own children on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

"They really love it," she said. "They're like, 'Mommy, we got to go, we got to go.' They love coming. It's really helpful to a parent."

McColler said she decided to study social work because, as a single mother, she wants to be an advocate for other single mothers.

"I looked for services and resources to help me while I was in school, and found barriers and problems in the system," she said. "I wanted to go in and make a change. A lot of single mothers think they can't go to school. I want to advocate for them, advocate for the elderly, for everyone who needs help. I want to let them know what programs are out there."

The NCCU students work with First Chronicles' co-pastor, the Rev. Pebbles Lindsay-Lucas, for more than just the afterschool program.

In the morning, they work with Durham families in need. Lindsay-Lucas also is the faith community coordinator for the Families First program, which helps families move toward self-sufficiency.

NCCU student Erica Jiles said she was nervous before her first visit to a local family. All the families are part of the statewide Work First program, and Lindsay-Lucas filled them in on what the students would be doing -- assessing needs and helping with goals of employment, education and hobbies.

Jiles said the mother and child she has been working with were inviting and excited. She helped the mom work on obtaining her GED, child day care and transportation.

Shannon Henderson helped a 5-year-old girl get ready for kindergarten. Aveeda Lindsay helped one man adjust to single parenthood and another man learn to read. McColler worked with a woman who is interested in attending NCCU, too.

Isaac Robinson is chairman of the university's social work department. He said that, like Jiles, students are nervous at first until they acquire experience in the field.

"Instruction and theoretical practice are quite different," he said. "We have to make sure we have some idea of their practice skills before they graduate."

The program is part of students' senior seminar class. There are 35 students in the class working with five agencies.

The seminar is sort of an initiation into the profession, Robinson said. Two dozen graduates of the program now work in Durham social service agencies, he said.

First Chronicles became a field site soon after Lindsay-Lucas earned her bachelor's degree in social work from NCCU in 2004. She also has another bachelor's degree from NCCU and her master's degree from Duke Divinity School.

She and her husband, the Rev. William Lucas, started the church at their kitchen table in 1999. They moved into their current building in 2003.

Lucas says all the church's programs benefit from partnerships with others.

"Without Central and partners like that, we wouldn't be able to do this. Our budget is $12,000 a year, tops. The city of Durham is a big part of this," he said.

The city received a "Weed and Seed" grant that paid for the ping pong table, television and other equipment in the youth recreation area. Having an area like that has helped a lot with the afterschool program, Lucas said.

"We use this as an incentive," he said. "If they don't do their homework, they can't come here. If they're not doing well in school, we limit their time here."

There also is a computer room with equipment donated by the United Way. Lucas still hopes for printers and Internet access for each computer.

First Chronicles has a lot going on.

Another Way Ministries, led by Lucas, focuses on the mind, body and soul of youths ages 11 through 16. Those youths spend some of their program time with youth in a Durham Police Department at-risk youth program that also meets at the church. The parsonage area of the church is home to a few people in need. On Friday nights, there is a youth talent show.

"Even though this is a small church, none of this would be possible without a congregation of about 60 folks, too. You thank God first, but so many others are helping," he said.