The following is a Christian Work Project sponsored in part by a grant from the Boston Baptist Social Union.
The Way Up
Description of Mission Project
Funds are being requested to help THE WAY UP continue and extend our ministry to girls and boys ages 7-18 in the communities of South Boston,Quincy, Braintree and Brockton. The work includes Christian evangelism, Christian counseling (individuals, groups and families), pastoral work and a street ministry in Quincy. Our work is based in the South Baptist Church (South Boston), First Baptist Church of Wollaston (Quincy) and five institutions for juveniles in Brockton and Braintree. Both of the churches are American Baptist congregations in TABCOM (The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts).
THE WAY UP is now in its 46th year of service. We believe that it is a model of the kind of youth ministry that can be used by churches or church mission groups all over our country if the churches are to fulfill Christ's commission in the 21st century to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to our nation's youth. The uniqueness of THE WAY UP is to be found in these three characteristics:
We are located in two different American Baptist churches. This is a missionary strategy to provide the local church in each of these communities with the expertise needed for dealing with the complex problems related to youth today. The average congregation has no one to fill this role. (Note: when Patti and I go into a community, we do not identify ourselves first of all as representatives of The WAY UP but as "youth ministers" of the local American Baptist church so that the kids and parents who express an interest will have a connection with the local church right away.)
We are also located in three different detention facilities in Brockton, one transitional home for boys in Brockton and one treatment program for juveniles in Braintree.
- The Brockton Shelter Care Unit for boys who have been arrested and are waiting to go back to court. Average stay: 30 to 45 days.
- The Brockton Assessment and Stabilization Unit for boys who have been adjudicated "delinquent" and are being held in preparation for transfer to another closed institution in which kids will receive further treatment. Average stay: 30 to 45 days.
- The Brockton Secure Treatment Unit for Boys housing kids who have violated their probation or are waiting to be transferred to another institution. Average stay: 60 days. Some, however, stay until they "age out" at 21.
- The Greentree Home for Boys for boys coming out of a juvenile lockup who have no other place to stay. Average stay: 6 months to 2 years.
- Life Resources Pilgrim Center housing kids who have been sent there for treatment by the state Department of Youth Services. Average stay: 5 to 11 months.
We have expanded the number of our programs in these five institutions during the past few years so that every teen present has the opportunity to participate in programs of THE WAY UP from one to three times each week (depending on what the various staffs will allow). This makes our institutional ministry more effective than spreading ourselves too thin by doing programs in a larger number of institutions. The kids we work with in these five institutions number up to 200 kids each week, some of whom participate in more than one activity. THE WAY UP ministry that Patti and I do in these settings each week is, of course, entirely unpaid but it is still important in the eyes of God. We try to provide the kids there of every religion with a clear witness to Jesus Christ in religious education, worship services, a weekly youth fellowship group, choir practice and art groups as well as, where it is deemed feasible, an invitation to join us in regular programs of THE WAY UP when the kids are eventually released. We were led to serve in three of these institutions from 1970 to 1991 because the kids detained by the juvenile court in Quincy were almost always held in one of these institutions. In the course of following the kids from Quincy and the South Shore to the places of their detention, we were led into an even larger ministry with similar kids from all over eastern Massachusetts, ranging from Boston out beyond Worcester down to Rhode Island and out to the tip of Cape Cod.
We returned to this institutional ministry seven years ago in the year 2002. In between, we had been assisting in youth ministry (again unpaid) at the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, an American Baptist church in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We had conducted this work in addition to our work in South Boston and the South Shore area (Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, Randolph, Holbrook and Milton). After ten years of youth ministry there with kids both inside and outside the local church, we left Plymouth because the pastor who had invited us had left that church, the church needed more room for a new Brazilian ministry that was flourishing there and our ministry at that church had never been thought of by us as anything but temporary assistance. The interesting thing is that a number of the unchurched kids that we sought out and worked with in programs of THE WAY UP in Plymouth continued to see us in the various locked institutions in which we were working in Brockton That led us to believe that we had already picked out the ones in Plymouth who were headed for further trouble.
The institution at which we work in Braintree is frequently called just "Pilgrim Center." It was founded about 1970 when I was still a probation officer in the Quincy Court. The founders were a Roman Catholic priest and an official of the Braintree school system. The priest, whose name was Father Jack Curley, and I were friends because while I was a probation officer in the Quincy Court, he was the Roman Catholic court chaplain. He passed away some years ago. The program was originally sponsored by Catholic Charities.
The way that Patti and I, two ordained American Baptist ministers, ended up in charge of all the religious education and worship at this formerly Roman Catholic sponsored program for troubled youth came about like this. Two years ago, a fifteen-year-old black inmate in one of our detection centers in Brockton, gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ through Patti and me and became a Christian. It was a conversion that really took hold. He became very active in every program that THE WAY UP offered there. About a year and a half ago, he was transferred to the Pilgrim Center in Braintree. There he discovered that (perhaps because of the priest "sex abuse" crisis in the Catholic Church) there were no church services or Bible study sessions offered at Pilgrim Center anymore. The boy expressed his concern in a public meeting at the program. He told the staff that since he was now a Christian, he had to have a church service and a Bible class to go to. He suggested that someone at Pilgrim Center contact Patti and me to get some Christian things going there. Someone did and we accepted. So now, THE WAY UP conducts weekly worship services, Bible study and a youth fellowship in the chapel every week. The program serves teens who have been sent there from all over Massachusetts.
Incidentally, this young man was eventually released from Pilgrim Center and was now living in Brockton on his own. Patti and I still picked him up every Sunday morning at his home in Brockton and transported him to go to church with us in South Boston. There he sang in the church choir every Sunday and, in August, 2008, was baptized by us in Milton and joined the church. Another young man was baptized with him at the same time. This is a good example of how a young person can be followed by THE WAY UP through a number of different settings.
Note how THE WAY UP is now ministering in each of the youth facilities at this end of the state. We work with kids
- when they are first arrested,
- when they are held by a juvenile court after being committed to the state by a juvenile court,
- when they are eventually sent away for treatment,
- when they return to a tougher facility if they do not work out in the treatment center and
- when they eventually are released.
These kids eventually come to realize that it does not matter which institution it is to which they are sent: Gene and Patti, the American Baptist missionaries, are going to be there for them at each one.
Our newest venture in ministry is the establishment of a Young Adult Worship Service which meets every Wednesday night in the South Baptist Church in South Boston. Our goal is to attract young adults who will attend church but are not able to come on Sunday morning. The group has been going now for three months.
We work with six types of youth, including church kids but concentrate especially on unchurched youth. This is consistent with our understanding of this kind of ministry as missionary work. Many of the kids we work with are neglected, abused, at-risk, troubled, delinquent or institutionalized.