New pre-school, despite pandemic, at Hill church

by Elspeth Lodge
Posted 9/9/21

The new pre-school at Christ Ascension Church, 8300 Germantown Ave., will be a wholly separate entity from the child care facility there that shut its doors at the end of September, 2020.

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New pre-school, despite pandemic, at Hill church

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The new pre-school at Christ Ascension Church, 8300 Germantown Ave., will be a wholly separate entity from the child care facility there that shut its doors at the end of September, 2020.

Described as a ministry in childhood education, Rev. Jay C. Mitchell, pastor at Christ Ascension, said recently that “in our church, ministry is when we put our faith into action, particularly as it serves our neighbors and community.”

The pastor hopes this new ministry will foster a closer bond between the education system and the church, since Christ Lutheran Child Care Center, reaching back to 1975, actually pre-dated the church's congregational history.

In the 1990s two local congregations merged to create Christ Ascension: The Evangelical Christ Church (Christ Lutheran) at 8300 Germantown Ave. and Ascension Lutheran Church at 7301 Germantown Ave. Christ Lutheran Child Care Center (CLCCC) was a program from Christ Lutheran. The new entity, the pre-school, will be Christ Ascension Pre-School (CAPS).

Over the years, the relationship between the church and the school became more business-like, said Mitchell. One of the goals since he arrived around six years ago has been to create a stronger bond between the church and the child care (now pre-school): “We have been trying to re-engage both to be in conversation, to mutually support one another in new and different ways, into the future,” he said, “realizing that this really is a ministry of the congregation. And so that's one of the big changes coming now. This is really being started as an integrated ministry.”

The school can now more comfortably incorporate faith-based materials into its curricula through activities like story times and Christmas shows, said BethAnn Leaming, director of the new pre-school (former child care). This can help the children create a greater bond with the church. Mitchell describes CAPS as “intentionally but not obnoxiously Christian” on the pre-school webpage.

A newly revitalized “nature-based” outdoor play space will be another avenue for children to learn through play. The church is currently behind due to permit delays, but Leaming describes it as “an incredible new space.” They will incorporate more fall-safe materials, new swings, around 40 new trees, shade “sails” for sun protection, etc.

“We know that for a city congregation it's important to have green space and that we are good stewards of our little corner of God's creation,” said Mitchell. The church realized that the play space wasn’t as well tended to as it could be, as well integrated into nature.

One of the major learning opportunities will be through a greenhouse. “While the church members will plant, the kids will have access to it,” said Leaming, “so they can really see how all of it works.”

“We have several parishioners who are passionate about gardening and love to teach it,” said Mitchell. “And that absolutely is a way for children to get their fingers in some dirt, grow some things and see how things work.”

The students in the preschool will range from 18-months to five-years-old. While child care hours are extended from 6 am to 6 pm, preschool will allow for a more traditional school day, with a true focus on education, says Leaming. For the little guys, the morning period will be 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and then the day will extend to around 3 p.m. for lunch and afternoon activities.

Mitchell said that before Covid, families were showing interest in the child care but often asked about the faith aspects of the program and realized there weren’t many, which often deterred them from enrolling. The community wanted more basic messages like “God loves you” to be a part of their children’s education, said Mitchell, and that change is being made now.

The church is hoping to have the pre-school open very soon, possibly by the time this article appears in print. While the new pre-school will be a ministry of the church, it is “built on mutual respect for one another, regardless of faith and background,” states their webpage. 

For more information, visit christascension.org

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