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Harlem World Magazine: The Woman Who Brought Scientology To Harlem
Verlene Cheeseboro is a defender of her faith. As the pastor of Harlem’s Church of Scientology, she doesn’t like hearing “lies and misinformation” about her religion. From waves ofnegative national press about the beliefs of its celebrity followers to scathing memoirs written by former members about the abuse they said they received from the church,Scientology has come under fire across the globe.
But Cheeseboro doesn’t buy it.
“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 ‘[Scientologists] are a cult but my religion is OK.’”
She said the church has done a lot of good for her and the people of Harlem. They’ve grown from a group of 25 volunteers to a community of several hundred members, she said. The church has helped its members improve their personal and spiritual lives, she added.
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 said.
Among the programs scheduled for the new 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 said.
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.