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St. James takes ministry in a younger direction with child-rearing class

By Robert Fulton

St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church is offering a workshop to foster understanding and communication between parents and their children.

Presented by the award-winning educator Fred Becker of the Becker Institute, the four-week series for parents, “Raising Self-Reliant and Responsible Children,” will teach how to create an environment in the home that encourages positive change.

The series is part of an ever-growing number of ministries at St. James.

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“We haven’t had this before,” said parish nurse Betsy Tecca. “When I did a self-reflection of my last year’s activities, I realized I had focused heavily on seniors, and I don’t want people to perceive me as the nurse for the shut-ins in the church. I have a family and just thought that it was a really important idea to reach out and have educational offerings for parents and children. It’s to give the parents the tools to see that their kids are functioning members of the family.”

One need not be a member of St. James to benefit from the workshop. The fact that the workshop is taking place at a house of worship does mean what will be taught will have a Christian theme.

“Not all of the programs offered at St. James are Christian programs,” said Tecca. “Fred Becker is not, for instance, a Christian educator. Just because it’s being held here does not presume it’s just a Christian offering and not of interest to the community. One of my goals is to - when I think about the interrelationships amongst people, it’s not just the people at St. James - it’s part of the larger community. The Christian connection is ours. It’s not saying that everything we offer is going to be evangelistic. We offer things that we think are of a benefit to (those) in the community. Doing a series like this, we consider an outreach ministry of our parish.”

Offering additional workshops and speakers at St. James is an attempt to include members more actively in the church. Generally, a lay ministry falls under the purview of a staff member.

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“One of the things we try to do with all of our ministries is to not just come to church for two hours on Sunday and go home,” Tecca said. “We really try to minister to the concept of the holistic person: mind, body and spirit. I think that that general philosophy will weave through ministry that you’ll find at the church.”

St. James is operating during a period of growth. While congregations around the country are decreasing in size due to aging populations, more families are coming into the fold at St. James, as reflected by increases in nursery and preschool enrollment.

“We’re now in the process of developing many programs,” said Laura Atwater, director of Christian Education at St. James.

“We’re hoping to have an offering like you wouldn’t believe, something for everyone, and not just on Sunday morning. We have noticed that not only are there little old ladies that need attention here or intact two-parents families; we have lots of single parents here. They are loving this. They are really wanting to attend this workshop so we’re reaching out to them as well.”

“Raising Self-Reliant and Responsible Children” will discuss barriers and builders in the family dynamic. The need for such a workshop is a reflection of the modern-day complexity of the family unit.

“Because we’ve had so many requests for things of this nature, I think it’s because the parents tend to be more than somewhat overwhelmed today,” said Atwater.

The Becker Institute offers self-empowering relationship-enhancing workshops. Its namesake has 30 years of experience and specializes in child/adult relationships. Tecca witnessed Becker speak at a workshop about a decade ago and recently saw a flier advertising the institute’s services.

“Fred is a real down-to-earth kind of guy,” said Tecca. “He’s very easy to talk to. He brings a wealth of knowledge and because of that he’s not scripted. He encourages his workshop to be interactive.”

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The workshop runs on Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sept. 29 through Oct. 20, at St. James Church at 743 Prospect St. The workshop fee is $50 per couple or $25 per person. For more information, call Laura Atwater at (858) 459-3421.