Say a prayer
Churches offer support as school year nears

By LaReeca Rucker

In less than a month, most Jackson area students will be back in school. And the Mississippi Baptist convention board is encouraging churches to support them through prayer walks.

"Some schools will open their doors and actually let the folks walk in the classroom," said Kay Cassibry, executive director of the Woman's Missionary Union, a department of the Baptist board. "It's praying with your eyes open - praying for teachers' and students' safety - praying for learning that will take place and any needs they may have. It's to give encouragement to teachers. They have the toughest jobs."

Cassibry said many parents commit to pray throughout the school year.

"They are concerned about what happens in the school environment," she said. "They are just trying to surround the schools in a net of prayer. It's a great tool to tie the community in with the churches. Towns and churches all across the state are doing it."

Debbie Ivy, women's ministry team leader at Clinton's Morrison Heights Baptist Church, said the church has led a prayer walk for the past decade. It's an idea she brought back from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus.

The first year, Morrison Heights, First Baptist Church of Clinton and
Clinton's Parkway Baptist Church united for a prayer walk.

Ivy said each church is assigned a school. Area private schools, Hinds Community College and Mississippi College are included. A date for this year's prayer walk is still being finalized.

"We just encourage people after church to go to the assigned school and do a prayer walk around the perimeter," she said. "It's an encouragement to the administration, teachers, support staff and families of the students to know the community cares."

Stacy Covey, director of preschool and children's ministries at First Baptist Church of Richland, will lead prayer walkers from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7 through Richland Elementary, Richland Upper and Richland High School.

"We just felt it was an important thing to do," she said. "Anyone can come who wants to."

First Baptist Church of Brandon will gather to pray at 5 p.m. Aug. 8.

Parkway will hold a back-to-school retreat called "Launch" for grades 7-12. It will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 20 and end at 10 a.m. Aug. 22.

"It's something to refresh everyone, refocus the students and give them direction for the upcoming semester," said youth pastor Louis Zinc.

Zinc said it's important to pray about school because of the pressures students face. "If you're not praying, it's kind of like going into battle without weapons."

And, he added, teachers need support, too.