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Leaps of faith

At Skate Church, teens use sport to spread love of God

At Skate Church, teens use sport to spread love of God

May 07, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A steady roll of skateboard wheels over concrete and wood ramps resounded Saturday at Maranatha Brethren Church, the first day of Skate Church for some Washington County teenage skaters who prefer to flip from an ollie into prayer.

About 10 skateboarders came out early for opening day of Maranatha Skate Church, which will be held nearly every Saturday through September at the church on Scott Hill Drive, off Jefferson Boulevard, east of Hagerstown.

Jacob Dawson, 15, of Hagerstown, said he likes to skateboard at the church because he sees it as a ministry.

"There are a lot of skateboarders that don't know about Jesus," he said.

Dawson has been skateboarding for nearly two years, and likes the sport because it offers him "a lot of different options."

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The home-schooled teen said he likes going to Maranatha Skate Church, but he also skateboards at his church, New Covenant Fellowship, in Fairplay.

So far, about 20 skateboarders have signed up to be a part of Maranatha Skate Church, which requires its skateboarders to wear helmets and shirts and participate in a five- to 10-minute scriptural lesson each time, Maranatha Pastor Ron Shank said.

No smoking, profanity, littering or loud music from cars is allowed, either, Shank said.

The Skate Church, which is in its eighth year, was started when a few of the church's youth group members who skateboarded complained that they were getting kicked out of many areas where they wanted to skate.

"It gives the guys a place to skate where they're not getting into trouble," Shank said.

During the scriptural lesson, Shank said he takes prayer requests from Skate Church members, who must be at least 10 years old. Those who join sign off on the rules and pay $15, which goes toward insurance.

The skate park at the church, which only is available for use during Skate Church hours, is made up of a couple of large wooden ramps and a few bars, which also are for bicyclists, who may use them after the skateboarders. In May, the hours are 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays for skaters and 5:30 to 8 p.m. for bicyclists.

Doug Stitely, 52, who attends Maranatha Brethren Church and was helping out Saturday, said, "It gets young people off the street and gives them something to do. I think they can learn from each other."

Matt Miller, 16, of Maugansville, said his Christian faith is an important part of his life, and skateboarding is something he has picked up in the past few years.

"It's a new challenge each day," he said of skateboarding.

His father, John Miller, is pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship.

Maranatha Skate Church, Matt Miller said, "can get kids in. Kids can come in and skate and hear about God."

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