By Jessie Burchette
Pastors leading a crusade against gangs said Monday evening that the first order of business is winning back families ó teaching parents how to do a better job with their children.
Nearly a dozen pastors of predominantly African-American churches in Salisbury pledged to unite and bring all their forces together to show children another way ó away from gangs.
“What can we do?” asked the Rev. Mary Hardin, associate pastor of Soldiers Memorial AME Zion, citing her personal struggle to find a way to help.
Hardin said several of the pastors got the same message from God ó go into the apartment complexes and work with the families to save the children. She said they will reach out and bring people into the churches, give children hope that things will change and show how to solve problems peacefully without hurting or killing.
Churches have identified apartment complexes nearby and have already or will begin making contacts.
Responding to questions from the parents and children attending the session, the ministers took turns providing answers.
“Get the parents first, let them know they are somebody,” said The Rev. Patricia Trueblood of Grace Deliverance Church.
She said for too long mothers or fathers who didn’t go to school have been talked down to called stupid or dumb ó or they are continuing the cycle with their children.
“Stop being negative, parents who can’t read are afraid. We need to bring the fear out. Parents are hurting, they don’t know how to discipline children,” said Trueblood.
Later she said the broken homes are leading to broken kids who are finding their way to gangs. Churches must find a way to get inside the doors of these homes and help the parents do a better job.
Others agreed, saying that much of the problem is kids having kids ó and they have no parenting skills.
Several pastors spoke out in favor of corporal punishment but cautioned that it should never be done in anger.
Representatives of various agencies spoke up to let participants know that the Rowan County Health Department and other agencies have classes and other assistance available for parenting and related skills.
Dr. Clary Phelps, pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church, conducted the workshop and praised the spirit of unity among the churches.
An overflow crowd filled Gethsame’s fellowship hall to hear pastors offer suggestions, advice and challenges.
The weeklong crusade will continue nightly at Gethsemane Baptist Church with workshops from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a worship service featuring a mass choir.
The Rev. Bill Houze of Lawn dale is the guest speaker for the crusade.
Gethsemane is located at 719 S. Caldwell St.
Topics for the rest of the week:
– Tuesday ó focus on spiritual gifts;
– Wednesday ó evangelism and witnessing;
– Thursday ó gang awareness;
– Friday ó winning back our children.
For more information on the crusade, contact Mount Zion Baptist Church at 704-637-0954 or Gethsemane Missionary Baptist at 704-633-5057.
By Jessie Burchette