Germantown: Canaan Baptist Church Serves Throughout the Community

Youngsters interact at the Canaan Baptist Church Day Care

Canaan Baptist is a church on a mission. A congregation of over 1,000. A day care in existence since the 1970s. A ministry that reaches to Africa and beyond. And now the adoption of a local elementary school. Is there anything this Germantown group cannot do?

Youngsters interact at the Canaan Baptist Church Day Care

“When we talk about outreach, we believe that as a church it’s not enough to just be a building on the corner, but really it’s about making a difference in the lives of the people around us,” said Derick Brennan, senior pastor at Canaan Baptist Church, adding that a person’s church affiliation or background makes little difference in Canaan’s approach. “The fact is that sometimes people will come to us with various different needs and we will meet those needs despite race, gender, religion, ethnicity or any of those other things.”

On Sunday, June 6, the venerable church at 5430 Pulaski Ave. celebrates its 102th anniversary, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

“On that Sunday, we’ll be celebrating, one, everything that God has done for us, as a congregation, and what we have been allowed to do for him,” said Brennan. “But then, two, we’ll also be laying the foundation for the next 102 years as well, so that those in the future will be able to look back and can attest to the fact that there lived a people who were trying to do some great work back in 2010.”

The adoption of the John B. Kelly Elementary School at 5116 Pulaski Ave. is one such example of Canaan’s consistent habit of giving back to the local community. Although the children in the Sankofa Academic Enrichment After School Program hail from a number of schools from around the Germantown area, those at J. B. Kelly hold a special place in the heart of the church.

Sankofa is a Ghanaian word that translates to mean the process of gaining wisdom from the past in order to build a brighter future. The children in the program range in age from 5 through 16 and participate in such diverse programs as French, nutrition, drama and African cultural studies.

Jacqueline Crawford, director of Sankofa Academic Enrichment After School Program

“We design our curriculum with the goal to satisfy the developmental needs in all different areas: physical, social, emotional and of course mental and spiritual,” says program director Jacqueline Crawford. “We help them examine their values [and] that helps them with their conflict resolution, it helps them to remember that they have to have good manners, it helps them in all areas of social development.”

Sankofa also provides support for the parents in the community and offers them a respite from the often hectic world of parenting. Crawford, a retired educator from the Philadelphia school system, says that the program provides children with not only academic enrichment, but also greater self-esteem, cultural pride and overall motivation to succeed in life. The goal is that children who attend the after-school program will be encouraged to give back to their community.

But the Canaan Baptist education doesn’t start there. At six months, children in the community can begin attending the 33-year-old day care located within the walls of the church. The program seeks to provide a secure environment for children as well as a jump-start on their kindergarten educations by using a curriculum called Blueprint.

Children in the Sankofa Academic Enrichment After School Program gather around for an after-school reading

“Blueprint is what we call an early literacy program, it’s a program which prepares the children for kindergarten,” said Sheila Coker, director of Canaan Baptist Church Day Care. “The staff and the teachers teach [the children] phonemic awareness, they learn through sight words, they actually learn how to read, and basically, we do this through giving them literature each day.”

In addition to the services Canaan Baptist provides the children of Germantown, they also have a number of outreach offers to the adults in the community. Brennan, originally from the 34th and Lehigh section of North Philadelphia, is well aware of the need for a strong community.

“We call ourselves the ‘gem of Germantown,’ and what we find is that like some gems, we’re a hidden gem,” said Brennan. “Many people have not heard of Canaan, but if you were to poll the people in the community as well as the parishioners, Canaan has made a very, very big impact in Germantown and the 19144 zip code.”

With a congregation of 1,000 and a plethora of programs, there is bound to be a program that suits everyone’s need. Bible studies, women’s groups, gospel choirs and missions work to fill a crowded church calendar.

“Our ministries run the full spectrum, everything from narcotics anonymous, to weight watchers, to volleyball to exercise class as well as different activities that are designed to help families and help individuals,” Brennan said.

Tuesday Night Thunder, or “TNT,”  is a roaring Bible study group that gets together each Tuesday night in the church sanctuary to make sure that members are spiritually on track midweek. Brennan views programs like TNT as necessary to fully complete an individual’s well-being.

“We try to consider ourselves as being holistic, in that we believe that it is not just enough to be spiritually strong,” said Brennan. “You also need to be physically, mentally and emotionally well in order to fulfill your destiny.”

1 Comment

  1. Nice article. The Canaan Baptist church and it’s leaders and members seem to be a strong positive force in their community.

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