Church Activities


Young Peace Leaders Commit Joyfully:

The ACTS Peace Leaders camp concluded with joyful energy in the Friday July 22 closing ceremony for Lincoln Heights middle school students who are now equipped, commissioned, and blessed to serve as peer mediators in their school and community.


38 children practiced conflict resolution skills during the week-long camp hosted by Christ Church Glendale. They were guided by peer mediation trainers Bob Kelly and Cheryl Edmondson from the Center for Socio-Emotional Learning (CSEL), teacher Amber Harris-Reed, and seven dedicated counselors from Lincoln Heights.

Rev. Mike Pearl, Director of St. Monica’s Recreation Center in Lincoln Heights, gave the students a rousing call to action on the first day, telling them they had been chosen for their leadership potential. He told them that they will literally save lives in a community struggling with violence and intimidation.

By week’s end, 26 students signed contracts committing to serve as peer mediators. The ACTS congregations – St. Simon of Cyrene, the Sisters of the Transfiguration, Christ Church Glendale, and Ascension and Holy Trinity – will be meeting in August with CSEL staff to brainstorm next steps in creating a youth group at St. Monica’s to aid the young mediators to compare notes on their work and continue to develop their skills.

Here's a glimpse about how this came about. 

Through the great ideas of ACTS leaders including Mike Pearl, St. Simon’s Senior Warden LaVerne Mitchell, and St. Simon’s Pastor Mary Laymon, students dived enthusiastically into many other activities that reinforced their sense of vocation and teamwork. These included daily yoga class taught by Tiffany West, drum circles led by Warren Foster and LaVerne Mitchell of St. Simon’s, and arts workshops in drama (led by the incandescent Amber Harris-Reed), creative writing (poet and rapper Randall Daniels), and art (led by Chris Drye, who has known many of these students since they were little and was moved to tears as he celebrated their graduation). 


Throughout the week, the enthusiastic welcome and hospitality of Christ Church Glendale and the courtesy of the students created new friendships that will carry over into the Princeton City School District.  Middle School Principal Dr. David Mackzum spoke warmly to the students during a workshop and came back for the closing ceremony on Friday. Christ Church’s rector David Pfaff and Peace Camp champions Penny Young, Mike Eck, and Mother Cameron O’Reilly will reinforce Mike Pearl’s advocacy with District leadership.  This is important because socio-emotional learning – the skill set essential to nonviolent resolution of conflicts - has become a lightening rod, unfortunately, in the current controversies roiling U.S. school boards. 


The children are so fortunate to have the passionate support of the counselors recruited by Mike Pearl and LaVerne Mitchell: Karen Hingston, Theresa Pierson, Jeannie Stinson, Rodney Townsend, and Kay Wallers. It was also great to see the empathy and leadership of the two high school students who served as junior counselors:  David Gearing and Olivia Young.


Mary Knight of the Sisters’ Food for Souls ministry contributed fantastic lunches every day, served by Don Sanchez of St. Simon’s and Mike Eck.  A&HT parishioners Melissa Monich, Rebecca Surendorff, Carol Gómez, and Dixie Koenemann provided carry-out breakfasts as the students boarded the bus each day at St. Monica’s. Beth Zwilling organized a great health care team including Drs. Huxley Miller of A&HT and Chip Carson of Church of the Advent, and TriHealth pharmacist Luke Markham. Somebody needed care, reassurance, and a quiet time out in the medical room every day. Deborah Holloway of St. Simon’s kept track of attendance each day and everyone got home safely!


Incredibly resourceful Christ Church outreach member Penny Young, Caprice Warren of the Christ Church staff and many volunteers contributed scores of hours to keep activities running beautifully. Thanks to A&HT Administrator Amy Winegardner for designing the beautiful invitation to the closing ceremony, and to Christy Murphy of A&HT and Bea Dorris and Mary Beatty of St. Simon’s for bringing delicious home-made cookies.


We are so grateful to the William Cooper Procter Fund and the Diocese’s Creation Care and Environmental Justice Task Force for grants making camp possible, plus generous financial and in-kind contributions from the ACTS churches, particularly Christ Church in preparing and sharing their campus for multiple kinds of learning and artistic expression (a huge job) and the Sisters through the planning and recruiting work of St. Monica’s staff and Food for Souls.  These contributions were ESSENTIAL to the fact that Camp could take place and that so many children enthusiastically attended.


To God be the glory in bringing us all together to start the work. As CSEL’s Cheryl Edmonson and the campers reminded us every day:  God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!



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