Skip to comments.'Divine intervention' led to success ("See You at the Pole" history)
Posted on 09/16/2004 7:44:57 AM PDT by jtminton
In the beginning ...
No, not that beginning.
In the beginning, 14 Burleson and Crowley ninth-graders prayed in a schoolyard.
That was in 1990. Now, 2 million teen-agers and children join in the annual youth prayer named See You at the Pole.
Now, Terry McConnell is a Fort Worth firefighter. In 1990, he was in the original Baptist youth group that prayed late one Saturday night on the steps of what was then Burleson Junior High School.
On Wednesday morning, he was at school again.
This time, he was taking his two sons to pray for the first time at the flagpole of their Burleson elementary school.
In its 15th year, See You at the Pole has outgrown childhood, and some of us have grown less worried about it.
What seemed at first like a stealth effort to promote compulsory prayer has matured into a joy-filled rally of freedom and faith.
"To me, See You at the Pole is a way to express religious freedom," McConnell said.
Back in 1990, he was one of 12 boys and two girls from Crestmont Baptist Church who felt inspired by a weekend discipleship retreat and went to pray at their schools.
When the Crestmont youth minister back then, the Rev. Rick Eubanks, told other youth leaders about the ninth-graders' enthusiasm, somebody came up with the idea of having youth groups everywhere pray before school that fall.
The way the story goes, the youth ministers then simply tried to figure out a place. Somebody suggested a flagpole.
Loretta Sharp of Burleson said she did not know until years later how the idea spread worldwide. But she knows exactly how the first prayer started, because the teen-agers had come from her house.
Sharp and her husband, Chuck, were the adult sponsors for the Crestmont youth group. They were hosting the retreat.
A visiting youth minister had the ninth-graders talking about their friends and the peer pressures in junior high.
"They talked about their fears," Sharp remembered. "They could feel strong as a youth group, but not when they went to school."
So they took the youth group to school.
About 11 o'clock on a Saturday night, all 14 students and three adults piled into one van and went to pray on the steps of Burleson Junior High (now Hughes Middle School), Crowley High School and at one student's home.
They went to schools "because that's where they met their friends," Loretta Sharp said.
"They didn't feel like they could pray in school. And that was where they needed to."
Now, students everywhere know they can pray in school, as long as the prayer is strictly the students' and not the teacher's or the government's.
It's tough to imagine today, but student prayers even before and after school were once banned from campus. And the first years of See You at the Pole were met with criticism.
In 1995, the prayer's sixth year, a reader's letter to the Austin American-Statesman complained: "It seems reasonable to allow the freedom of religious expression in public schools, but it is a mistake."
See You at the Pole, he wrote, is "about as student-initiated as the TAAS test!" -- the state performance test of that year.
The reader complained that he had the right to own a gun but not to bring it to school.
"This same reasoning needs to be applied to religion. ... Religion is divisive and destructive. Let's make our public schools drug-, weapon- and religion-free zones," the letter said.
The idea that student prayers might be as dangerous as guns no longer seems reasonable, even in a letter to the editor.
The Sharps didn't pray at the pole Wednesday morning. They prayed quietly at Burleson High School on Tuesday night, Loretta Sharp said, because See You at the Pole draws such a crowd now that it's a "madhouse."
They no longer sponsor the church youth group, working instead with newlyweds. But they prayed for today's teen-agers to show "boldness" in their faith.
The Sharps are proud of their years of sponsorship of the Crestmont youth -- another former Crestmont worshipper is American Idol Kelly Clarkson -- and also modest about their role in the prayers that inspired See You at the Pole.
"It wasn't us," Loretta Sharp said. "It was divine intervention.
"The kids back then were up against major drug problems. I don't see that as much now. And there was just a lot of boredom.
"Now they're all grown up and they have kids of their own."
"They're making us feel really old."
Unlike some ninth-graders from that sad era of teen-age heroin overdoses and suicides, those kids from Burleson and Crowley have safely grown up.
So has See You at the Pole.
Students gather at flagpoles across the Metroplex. 3B
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bud Kennedy's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. (817) 390-7538, firstname.lastname@example.org
Besides Cleburne, these two towns is where Silverwoman1 and me are looking for our emu ranch. /sar :-)
I have an aunt that got into the emu scam out in Graham. Some people have more money than sense sometimes.
Godly is nearby, wonder if they gathered around the pole, too?
Thats significant and a miracle of God in todays world imo.
lol at the emu fad! I never understood how that took off.
I heard they are pretty mean and can rough you up.
I know it was a joke! I hope you don't think I was offended! :)
(btw, my aunt really did buy an emu farm.)
Ranch Freeper! Don't plant 'em...won't grow in the ground??
Series, had no idea that all that started in Crowley and Burleson.
Remember my girl going up to school early to gather around the flagpole [South Grand Prairie].
It must not have been very well advertised because I went to BJH in 1990 and don't remember ever hearing about it. I'm glad it caught on, though. It's hugh.