Verlene Cheeseboro, The Scientology Minister Bringing Scientology To Harlem
- By Alison Lesley --
- 07 Oct 2014 --
Verlene Cheeseboro is pastor of Harlem’s Church of Scientology.
Verlene states that she believes in religious tolerance as was evidenced in her quote in today’s DNAINFO focus piece where she says in addressing the Church Of Scientology, “Like any other religion we believe there is a God. We believe in the same God that everyone else believes in,” said the 69-year-old pastor, who has been preaching Scientology in Harlem for the past decade. “You can’t say that ‘[Scientologists] are a cult but my religion is OK.’”
Verlene, an ordained Scientology minister, passionately believes that the Harlem Scientology church has done a lot of good for her and the people of Harlem. She states within the piece, that the group in Harlem has grown from a group of 25 volunteers to a community of several hundred members, and that the church has helped its members improve their personal and spiritual lives and it’s poised to do far more next year, when its multimillion-dollar church and community center, currently under construction, opens on East 125th Street.
She states that among the programs scheduled at the new Church location are free services for seniors and youths. The community center will offer free tutoring lessons for children and hold events like bingo nights for senior citizens. The church also plans to train seniors so that they can help tutor the children, Cheeseboro stated.
Cheeseboro went on to articulate that her church — which has spent the last decade in rented space, and is currently located next to the National Black Theater — offers spiritual counseling to help its members become more intelligent and better-functioning individuals.
Cheeseboro, who was born and raised in Harlem, was baptized and married as a Baptist.
Cheeseboro, a retired officer of the New York State Department of Corrections, first learned of Scientology in 1998 from a colleague at the after-school tutoring program where she volunteered. In 2006, to make Scientology more broadly available, she became part of a corps of Scientologists determined to bring the religion to Harlem. The new 125th Street premises of the Church of Scientology of Harlem is scheduled to open in 2012.
“Harlem is very spiritual, and Scientology has been warmly welcomed here,” says Cheeseboro. “Scientology offers solutions to the myriad problems plaguing communities of color throughout the country, from education and business issues to personal relationship problems and the rampant violence visited upon our youth.”
She first heard of L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who went on to start the Church of Scientology, when she was tutoring her children and other kids throughout Harlem. A colleague at the state’s Department of Corrections suggested she use a program developed by Hubbard.
She tried it and was pleasantly surprised by how successful it was. She asked about the man who came up with the technique and started attending Scientology services Downtown.
“It was so successful that I wanted to find out more,” Cheeseboro said of how she first got involved in Scientology. “I wanted to know about the man who came up with this.”
When the Church of Scientology started funding a mission to Harlem in 2003, Cheeseboro did all she could to help. She would hand out fliers on street corners and told her friends about the new religion.
“I love the ministry of Scientology,” she said. “The church has tools to help people help themselves. I like that idea of people finding out for themselves.”
Part of the reason Scientology has grown in Harlem is because it is such a spiritual place, Cheeseboro said, adding that the Church of Scientology will add to that culture.
She has worked in Harlem and is proud of helping at-risk children learn and form healthy identities using the resources garnered from the philosophical teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the church’s founder.
Scientology, she is convinced, is for everybody, but “the benefits to battered black communities are immeasurable”.
She touts the organisation’s work to reduce inner-city violence and the proliferation of drugs among young people.
“Scientology,” she notes, “is also committed to educating children on the Declaration of Human Rights. A document that so many of us are oblivious of.”
The Rev. Bobbie McDaniels of the Metropolitan Baptist Church said it makes sense that different churches spring up in the neighborhood. As long as the churches are bringing people closer to God, they are good for Harlem, McDaniels said.
“Denominations and names of churches are like hospitals. Many hospitals have different names but they all heal the body. Churches heal the soul,” McDaniels said.
Cheeseboro said she looks forward to helping even more people after the expansion next year.
“We are going to have all the tools to help the people of Harlem,” she said.
Read the original piece on DNAInfo.com.
Related on WRN: Scientology Creating A Positive Future For Harlem Youth
The Church Of Scientology, Harlem – Google Maps Interactive Street View: