Posted: 1/28/16 at 8:15am. Article by Linda Peay.
When you feel the blessings of God’s call, you know you made the right decision. You truly realize how amazing God is when you cannot distinguish who has received the biggest blessing.
Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church, located in Richmond’s east end, has seen many changes in its community through the years. Many members have left the once thriving church to move out into the suburbs.
Those still remaining recognized that with ample space, including a full-sized gymnasium, the church was in a good place to respond to the needs of the community. They began praying for opportunities for God to use them to serve their neighborhood.
A chance encounter brought Percy Strickland to the church. Strickland is the founder of Church Hill Activities and Training (CHAT), a 13-year-old organization that offers tutoring and educational opportunities to the youth of Church Hill. CHAT oversees Church Hill Academy, which is an independent, Christian, coed high school aimed to help the community achieve academic success.
The academy originally started at the Peter Paul Development Center, but there was no dedicated space in the building. The teachers had no place to call their own and had to pack up their materials every day. They quickly realized they needed a new space.
In early 2013, Strickland was in attendance at a basketball clinic that Carlisle Avenue was hosting. While there, he noticed the great space of the church. Members introduced him to the pastor, Rev. Howard Germany, and he inquired about the possibility of moving the academy to the church.
Rev. Germany took the proposal to church members who, that summer, overwhelmingly voted in favor of allowing Church Hill Academy to hold school on its campus. “Even though there were questions along the way, we worked through matters as they came up, and the academy has found a real home for its mission,” Rev. Germany said.
About 40 students attend the high school. While Carlisle Avenue has not experienced a direct membership increase, the church has realized many blessings with their decision. Rev. Germany said, “Hosting the school has allowed us to have a bigger presence in the community. The neighborhood residents witness activity on our campus.”
Nearby African-American families have visited their worship services. The academy’s dietician, in addition to providing lunch for academy students, has taken the place of the long-gone kitchen committee and prepares meals for Wednesday night services. “She feels that she’s been blessed by the church,” Rev. Germany noted, “and she wants to bless our church with her gift of meal planning and preparation.”
The academy also owns a bus that is handicap accessible, which they only use during the week. On Sundays, the principal and vice principal pick up church members at a local assisted living facility and bring them to Sunday services.
Church Hill Academy pays rent and uses the church facilities year round. The school holds bridge camps for rising 9th graders in the summer so the new students can be oriented to high school. In August, the teachers return to prepare their classrooms.
Having the church building used during the week is a win-win. “The boiler has to run every day in the winter, regardless if anyone is in the building,” said Rev. Germany. “The academy helps us with a reason to do that.”