Blessed to Be a Blessing

I have been spending the last few weekends cleaning out what was my childhood home—57 years of accumulated stuff!  While the task is daunting, it has also been a time for reflection and memories. Our family of five lived in a five-room railroad flat with crooked floors and no doors between the rooms, hence no privacy.  My parents slept in the living room on a pullout couch and my sister and I shared a ¾ bed (smaller than a double). We moved into this apartment when I was eight years old. Even though this was basically an old tenement with no amenities it never mattered.  We weren’t rich, but I was blessed with a great childhood! As I looked through mountains of old pictures (was I ever that young and innocent?), succinct memories came to mind.

Being a shy child, the thought of making new friends terrified me so I sat in the apartment for the first week or so until my father convinced me to go downstairs to sit on the stoop with him. Once there, he quickly took matters in hand and asked the neighborhood children if I could play with them. Thus began a young career of street dodgeball, ring-o-levio, double dutch and numerous childhood friendships—all thanks to my father.

Another memory I have is of the time I invited a school friend to come to my house after school. Her name was Cassie and she happened to be African-American. Upon entering the hallway, one of the neighbors made a derogatory comment about Cassie not belonging in our building. I told my mother and I will never forget the confrontation that ensued between this woman and my mom. It was a lesson against bigotry that I will never forget.

We didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t live in a fancy house, we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t own a car, but I know we were very rich indeed. I thank God for the wonderful parents I was blessed with.

As a teacher and administrator, it was sometimes hard dealing with a difficult or demanding parent. I had to often remind myself that their motive was usually right, but their approach might have been off.  Hopefully, most of the parents that you deal with are nurturing and involved parents or caregivers. Those of you who are educators know that often you become a parental figure to your students—some of the littlest ones even slip occasionally and call you mom. For those children who may not be so blessed your supportive presence in their lives is critical. I’ve read many articles that indicate that having at least one nurturing and supportive adult can make the biggest difference in the lives of children.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I give thanks for the wonderful parents with whom I was blessed. I give thanks too for the wonderful family, teachers, Sunday school teachers, pastors and family friends who helped mold me into the person I am today.

Let me end with Matthew 19:19, “Honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Thanksgiving for all of you,


On the Road to Innovation

California Lutheran University, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, and CUEM are well on their way to fulfilling a vision for establishing the first of three Innovation Institutes.  The California Institute will be housed on the campus of the seminary in Berkeley, CA.  The Institute will have two foci.  One will be to target educators and administrators in faith-based schools, to assist them with the latest ideas and strategies for effective pedagogy.  The second focus will be to help pastors relate to their communities—through education—in both public and private institutions.  The Institute seeks to become an integral place for the advancement of faith-based schools and churches engaged in education, with an emphasis on urban communities.  CUEM is currently having conversations with two other Lutheran universities on the East Coast and in the Midwest regarding the establishment of Institutes on their campuses. Stay tuned for more information.

Martin Luther on Education

It’s been quite the year as Lutherans around the globe celebrated the 500th  Anniversary of the Reformation. In preparing for a short talk on Luther’s impact on education, I found out some interesting facts. Luther, the reformer, was far ahead of his time in many of his recommendations!  Did you know…

  • Luther was one of the first reformers to advocate for community-organized schools built and paid for by the state.
  • Luther advocated education for all—rich and poor, girls and boys—quite a revolutionary thought for the times. Before Luther only the wealthy sent their male children to be educated, usually by priests.
  • Civic schools were to belong to a system of schools throughout Germany, operating in harmony with the church. This was definitely before the idea of separation of church and state!
  • Luther encouraged acceptance of his model supporting education for all, “for a city’s best and greatest welfare, safety and strength consist rather in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable well-educated citizen” rather than in “mighty walls and magnificent buildings.” Think we might learn something here!
  • Influenced by the Renaissance, Luther believed in a classical education in the liberal arts, which he believed would help people best serve the Church.
  • Luther viewed education as crucial for the advancement of the gospel and encouraged parents to educate their children to the glory of God, rather than sending them out to work. He said, “It is the duty of the temporal authority to compel its subjects to keep their children in school so that there will always be preachers, jurists, pastors, writers, physicians, schoolmasters, and the like.”

As we come to the end of this year of celebration, which many of us commemorated with services, acts of service, etc., we can add to Luther’s list of accomplishments leading the way to reformation in education, as well as in the church itself.

Bayer Award

CUEM is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Bayer Award for Excellence in Urban Education, which recognizes those highly successful in operating innovative and effective urban education programs.

Dr. Bayer is remembered with deep affection and respect by all who knew and worked with him.  This award is given to organizations that demonstrate his commitment to strong, inspiring urban education programs.

Each fall, CUEM seeks nominations for this annual award.  Churches, schools or educational and social service agencies are eligible to apply.  Nominations should be submitted to the CUEM office by December 31st of each year, and include:

  • Organization name, address, phone number and website
  • Name and contact information for organization’s director or leader
  • A one-page (max) statement describing the work of the organization or program.
  • A one-page (max) statement outlining why the organization should receive the Bayer Award.
  • Letters of support for the nomination are encouraged.

The Lester R. Bayer Award for Excellence in Urban Education carries a cash prize of $1000 and recognition at a public event, to celebrate the recipient’s accomplishments.

The award is given to institutions which stepped out to impact the lives of family and children through education in new and innovative ways.

Amazing Grace Christian School in Seattle was the first recipient of the award, recognized as a Microsoft School of Distinction utilizing an individualized approach to education, while utilizing many forms of technology.  Amazing Grace is firmly committed to sharing the Gospel with its diverse student body and in fostering both the dance and the arts as an integral part of its curriculum. The school, which closed and reopened in its new form, now has a student body of 265.

Astoria Lutheran in NYC was the 2017 recipient of the award.  A PK-8 school, which is embracing project-based learning as its structure, is also committed to helping urban children experience nature through their reclaimed community garden.  The school, which was in danger of closing with only 40 students, is well on its way to recovery, and is currently serving 150 students.

Each award recipient will share ideas and open its doors to those wishing information regarding programs and processes. CUEM will help to facilitate this collaborative process.

Donate to The Center For Urban Education Ministries!