WASHINGTON – In the Bible, God asked Moses to take a census. And, this weekend, area ministers are going to help the U.S. Census Bureau do the same thing.
Friday marked the beginning of seven weekends of “Census Sabbaths,” when clerics will remind worshipers of the importance of filling out and mailing back their census forms.
The U.S. Census Bureau sent thousands of informational packages two weeks ago to religious organizations in Maryland, so that reverends, rabbis, ministers and imams can help get the ball rolling and get their members involved.
“It’s going to be a part of our Mission’s Moment Sunday,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore. “That’s when we talk about outreach and Christian service.”
“It’s important that every faith-based organization stress the importance of the census,” said Miles.
He said his church has sent out mailings about the importance of the census and census job offerings, and has offered its facility as a testing site for enumerator applicants. Miles said he plans to invite a census representative to talk to members in early April.
Billions of dollars of federal funding for states and local governments over the next 10 years are riding on the census. The money received by each neighborhood and each state is allotted to a large extent according to the population tallied in the census. The money helps provide schools, hospitals, senior centers, roads, and congressional representation.
The Census Bureau estimates that it may have missed more than 100,000 Marylanders in the 1990 census, mostly children and minority residents. State officials say that undercount may have cost Maryland as much as $100 million a year in federal aid it should have been receiving, or $1 billion over the past decade.
“If half of them (ministers) do it, imagine how powerful that would be,” said Juanita Britton, Regional Partnership Coordinator for Census 2000. Britton said ministers can “put it in their bulletin, or weave it into their message,” just as long as they spread the word.
“I will make a statement this Sunday emphasizing the importance of it,” said the Rev. Arthur B. Glover, of the Falls Road A.M.E. Church in Woodlawn. “My congregation is 99 percent black, and there was a big undercount of minority populations,” Glover said.
He plans to talk about the census during the morning announcement period, because “I try to separate politics from the worship service.”
The Rev. Earnest Randolph of the Kingdom Worship Center in Baltimore has not decided whether his census talk will be during services or after. But he definitely plans to talk about it.
“The census is important for everyone,” said Randolph. “We just have to learn how it benefits our lives…schools, senior citizens, and Medicare.”
So Sunday, Randolph will set up a table after the worship service. But he just might include a word or two about the census at anytime during the service, “it depends on how the spirit is flowin’,” he said.