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Asking the clergy about faith and busy schedules

As school is about to begin, parents and their kids will again wrestle with schedules and priorities -- faith included.

This week's clergy offer suggestions on how to prioritize and keep religion in the mix.

The Rev. Gerardo Ramirez, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Carle Place:

Scheduling is a problem, and it means that churches have to be creative programwise.

One of the things we did in response to our congregants with scheduling problems on Sunday morning was to offer a Saturday night service and an 8 a.m. Sunday service, in addition to our 10 a.m. Sunday services.

When I grew up, Sunday morning was only for church services and nothing else. There were no other activities. We have to recognize it is a different age now. This is not the only time churches have had to accommodate its congregants. There was a time when a church would adjust services for its farming congregants who had to take care of the harvest.

We understand that these other activities are important to our children. Alternative service times help. Parents also can speak to the coaches and request they not play during service times on Sunday morning. Of course, even if your coach agrees, you still have to factor in whether the opposing coach can do the same. Also, congregants can attend Wednesday night services as an alternative.

We want all our congregants to stay connected to church and have it be an important time in their lives. Children and sporting activities aren't the only scheduling consideration. For example, we also have made changes to late-night holiday services because some of our older congregants don't drive well after dark.

The Rev. Craig J. Wright, Calvary AME Church, Glen Cove:

When you talk about school activities, you're talking about things that are mandated or approved by the school board or state, as well as other activities like traveling sports teams.

Parents should understand that religious activities are cultural things that also help make a well-rounded student. So, it is not a matter of how to schedule religious activity, but to make a commitment to both institutions.

Both offer invaluable benefit to the future of the child and the future of our communities. If the community is to be better, it starts with the strength of the family. If we understand the learning imperative of being exposed to both type of activities, then parents should want their children to take part in religious activities. They learn through public speaking, creative arts and how to express themselves.

If I could say anything to parents, it would be to spend equal amounts of time with the Parent-teacher association or other groups supporting their child. All these things can give you a different perspective of your child. Use all of these activities and opportunities in conjunction. Look at these activities as spokes on a bike wheel. From the security guard at the school to the pastor at the church, we're watching that your child's grows as he or she is becoming who he or she will be.

Rabbi Gadi Capela, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Greenport:

It is not about juggling. It comes down to priorities. Education for the children begins with the parents.

When I was working at camp and other religious institutions, I would see the difference in kids whose parents were serious about their religious education and those who weren't. It showed in the kids and their attitudes toward religious education.

If a child participates in 12 activities that aren't religious, then drop one. As a parent, you have to take the religious activities as seriously as French lessons, math camp or athletic activities.

I would recommend you tell the child he or she can choose the activities he or she wants to participate in, but one of them has to be religious activities. It is not a bad exercise for children to learn early to make choices and prioritize. Everyone wants to have everything. No one wants to choose between things, but we all have to. So, as the parent, you have to make the first choice. You have to choose to make religion as important as the other activities.

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