Church Burning: Using a Contemporary Issue to Teach Community Organization

By Carter, Carolyn S. | Journal of Social Work Education, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Church Burning: Using a Contemporary Issue to Teach Community Organization


Carter, Carolyn S., Journal of Social Work Education


THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REPORTED 28 incidents of church burning in African-American communities in the 17 months prior to May 1996 (Fletcher, 1996a). Most of the churches were located in isolated rural areas of the South and Southwest and two churches dated back to the beginning of the century (Associated Press, 1996). Burning a black church is more than destruction of a place of worship. Because the black church is a vital coping resource in African-American communities (Allen-Meares & Burnam, 1995; Daly, Jennings, Beckett, & Leashore, 1995) and integral to the daily lives of residents (Boyd-Franklin, 1989), church burning can be especially devastating.

The initial reactions of African-American communities to the 1995-96 church fires and the powerful responses which occurred later offer a useful context through which social work educators can teach empowerment-based community intervention (Gutierrez, GlenMaye, & DeLois, 1995; Weil & Gamble, 1995). Following a brief overview of the role of the black church in African-American communities, this article discusses the responses of African-American parishioners to the burning of their churches; Weil and Gamble's (1995) models of community practice; and ways to use church burning to teach community organization principles and skills to social work students.

The Church in African-American Communities

Black churches are often considered the pulse of African-American communities. They offer African Americans an opportunity to worship in a unique way and are usually the first institutions to which parishioners turn when in distress. Early African Americans regarded the church as a haven and the only institution that belonged entirely to their community (Boyd-Franklin, 1989). Churches also serve as political mediums and, with the exception of radio and television, continue to be the most efficient means of communication in African-American communities. Church affiliation diminishes isolation (Daly et al., 1995) and provides an opportunity to interact with positive role models who are themselves residents of the community. More importantly, black churches offer love, caring, and a sense of belonging, thereby supporting the social and interpersonal needs of parishioners (Carter, 1997).

Approximately 70% of African American adults are affiliated with a black church (Billingsley, 1992), and many continue to consider themselves parishioners even after they cease to attend services. Churches are an essential part of the natural helping systems that exist in African-American communities (Daly, et al., 1995). Natural helping systems, which include unlicensed beauticians, barbers, and transportation providers, reduce stress and normalize community environments.

Because of the central role played by black churches in African-American communities, church arson creates a serious and sudden loss. Through readings, exercises, and class discussions, social work students can thus learn appropriate and effective responses to similar crises.

Models of Community Intervention

Several models of community practice are currently cited in the literature (Gutierrez et al., 1995; Rivera and Erlich, 1992; Rothman, 1995; Taylor & Roberts, 1985). Based on an extensive review of community practice models, Weil and Gamble's (1995) entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work provides a framework that combines eight extant models. The models were selected based on clear delineation of their basic purposes and desired outcomes; they include: (1) Neighborhood and Community Organizing; (2) Organizing Functional Communities; (3) Community Social and Economic Development; (4) Social Planning; (5) Program Development and Community Liaison; (6) Social Movements; (7) Political and Social Action; and (8) Coalitions. Advantages of the framework by Weil and Gamble over models such as Rothman and Taylor and Roberts are that Weil and Gamble distinguish between local geographic organizing and organizing functional communities at the local, regional, state, national, or international levels, and that they make clear differences between social development, which is generally empowerment-based, and economic development, which has more of a technical focus (Weil, 1996). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Church Burning: Using a Contemporary Issue to Teach Community Organization
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.