By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(April 26, 2018) A “mindfulness” program at a Worcester County school has drawn the ire of a local church, whose pastor has condemned the yoga-based exercise as a product of Satan.
SonRise Church Pastor Daryl McCready stated his case against the Buckingham Elementary School morning ritual during his March 26 service in Berlin and in a Facebook post after witnessing the program at the invitation of school officials.
The school on March 5 posted on Facebook that it had just introduced the “Mindfulness Moments” video series.
The post said, “Each morning as an extension of our announcements, students participate in a mini 6-10-minute mindfulness and yoga session to help them positively start off their day. The coping strategies learned, such as breathing and calming techniques, help provide students with a way to manage obstacles or challenges they may face throughout their day.”
The video series was funded by a grant from the Jesse Klump Foundation and features local yoga instructors Jayme Mahoney and Berkleigh Diaz of Little Dreamers Wellness Center in Berlin.
McCready announced during his March 25 sermon that he and pastors from Ocean City Baptist Church, the Worship Center, and the River Church of the Nazarene had been invited to view the program.
“I go tomorrow morning to Buckingham Elementary School, because they’ve started a new program called ‘Mindfulness Program.’ And it’s led by yoga instructors. I’m going to go tomorrow morning, because the principal has invited me to come and see the program … and I’m praying for God’s wisdom and discernment,” he said.
“And we’re all praying for discernment and wisdom, because if what’s happening there is in any way trying to indoctrinate our children with a false teaching, then I have to stand against it. And we [the church] should stand against it,” McCready added.
“All over this community right now, this assault is happening on who Jesus is and who we are in light of him. It’s a clear assault on our community right now. I’m seeing it everywhere I turn. And, listen, I’m concerned,” he said.
McCready said members of the church were already being drawn away.
“They’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s a good thing, it’s not a bad thing. I’ve never been closer to God.’ Not the true one. You may be close to a God of your understanding, but he’s not the real one,” McCready said. “And there is one who likes to mimic God – his name is Satan. And he has a whole legion of demons who want to convince you that you can trust them and that they’re good and that they can help you … But they have one goal, the bible says very clearly: the devil comes to seek, kill and destroy.”
On the following day, March 26, McCready posted on Facebook about what he saw at Buckingham.
“The lie that people can be as God or are gods themselves and only need to discover their inner higher self or that they possess the power to heal others by ‘their positive energy’ or that they can bring about their preferred future by the power of their own positive thinking is an old lie from the Father of Lies. God’s people should have nothing to do with such things,” McCready said.
He added, “I understand not all yoga practices are spiritually focused but the foundation of yoga and many practices are of unBiblical nature and to be avoided by believers. The warning for us is that we ought not be supportive of anything that leads people away from God and the truth. Stretching is not the problem – yoga is.
“Even though some exercise called yoga may not be evil, there is a whole lot of evil practices occurring in this town under the name of yoga,” McCready said. “Yoga seeks to draw and recruit people and in some cases indoctrinate them to false truths and practices.”
McCready continued speaking on the subject during an April 8 sermon in Berlin.
“Boy – people did not like me saying that. I took about a week and a half of everybody’s feelings. Some were angry – I mean, real angry. And they let me know it,” he said. “Some took offense, because they did not agree with my opinion or how I expressed it, or they felt judged or condemned. Some had no idea about the connection or the background of yoga, and thanked me for bringing truth and speaking on it.
“I heard a lot of people [saying] ‘you were so angry’ I wasn’t angry – it was called passion. When I see God’s people being swept out by false teachings and heresies and things that God calls detestable, yes, I get angry. It’s my job. That’s my calling,” McCready said.
Despite these objections, the “Mindfulness Moments” program at Buckingham Elementary School continues.
Worcester County School spokeswoman Carrie Sterrs confirmed church officials observed the program, but said no changes were made.
“As we do with any parent or community concerns, we invited those individuals with questions to come in and observe the Mindfulness Moments program,” Sterrs said. “After the observation, it was expressed that the group did not have any further concerns. No programmatic changes were made.”
Kim Klump, founder of the Jesse Klump Foundation, “Mindfulness Moments,” said the practice includes five minutes during morning announcements, an afterschool program, and one day per month of a classroom lesson teaching coping skills.
“We are also funding a similar program for the Worcester County Board of Education to implement next school year for all elementary schools, called ‘Kimochi,’” she said.
“All of Buckingham (administrators, staff, teachers, and guidance counselor) were onboard with this program. I, myself, teach once a month along with my outreach coordinator, Shawntel Hall. So, I personally fully support the program,” Klump added.
According to Klump, some minor changes were made after church officials visited the school.
“It was agreed that certain wording would be changed to appease the church, such as ‘yoga’ is now called ‘stretching,’” she said.
Klump shared a personal anecdote from two parents who recently overheard her talking about “Mindfulness Moments.”
“The wife said that last week her son got angry about something one evening and before she could say or do anything, he closed his eyes and started breathing deeply,” Klump said. “Then, he opened his eyes and said he would be alright now. His mother was amazed and asked where he learned that. He said at school with Ms. Jayme and Ms. Berkleigh. It made me cry to learn that the kids are actually using these skills at home!
“I just hope that most people realize the good this is doing, and my ultimate hope is that it reduces future suicidality as the kids continue to use these skills to combat negative thoughts and feelings,” she said.
Jeffrey Smith, the parent of a Buckingham student and a member of the PTA executive committee, said he fully supports the program.
“The program simply gives students the tools to deal with life’s challenges in a practical way,” he said. “This program isn’t religious; it is a useful, effective, and proven program that’s making a marked difference in our children’s lives.”
Heidi McNeeley, a Christian yoga instructor and cofounder of the Worcester County Warriors Against Opiate Addiction, was also supportive.
“I am so proud of [School Superintendent] Lou Taylor and our board of education for exploring and allowing different modalities to provide stress reduction to our kids who face a daily barrage of stress and anxiety inducing information and events,” she said.