A Different Kind Of Valentine Celebration
Imagine being a Christian living in an inner-city community and, on the eve of Valentine's Day, you and your partner are given the opportunity to attend a banquet for couples, and you learn more about love and marriage.
On arrival at the venue, you are greeted by pre-set tables and glassware adorned in the colours of love. You are being served a hot three-course meal, entertained by a witty master of ceremonies, live and recorded music, drama, and, later, the opportunity to vie for prizes.
For couples of varied ages from three inner-city communities - Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens and Majestic Gardens - that was their reality on Saturday. The occasion was Family Life Ministries' annual Valentine's Banquet, held on the lawns of their office, Cecelio Avenue, Half-Way Tree.
"This is our fifth (consecutive) year," Janice Lewis, coordinator of the event, told The Gleaner.
When the banquet was first started, the target group was married couples, but "in 2010, we decided to change the format and reached out to those who are not married. so for the past three years, that's what we have been concentrating on - unmarried couples from the inner city."
The couples were selected with assistance from pastors of churches in various communities and a recently held crusade in Trench Town.
"Because it was felt that they are surrounded with so much stress, life is hard, and so we want to bless them with an evening of just catering to them," Lewis said.
"Which this year, what we want to do, in particular, is to maintain a relationship with all of those who have come. We are going to bring them together into smaller groups. We are planning three different gatherings until December."
Saturday's staging got off to a very late start, in part, due to the inclement weather. And under a wind-chilled sky, Master of ceremonies Winston Bennett was up for the task. He got the warmth going with background information on the origin of Valentine's Day, and as the programme progressed, he had patrons laughing to some witty anecdotes and interesting advice.
From the Eagles Christian Theatre Troupe, the couples learned the importance of making The Choice. while the dramatisation was spot on with message, and the actors were relatively believable, for future staging, the troupe may want to ensure that their changing room is much nearer to the stage so as to tighten scene changes.
ILLUSTRATED THE TALENT
Music was also on the menu. The entrÈe came from Junior Tucker and the brother and sister duo Arrowma, who performed first, opening their account with The Magic Touch.
However, it was the original, I Give One Hundred Percent My Dear, that not only brought their father, Major Neil Lewis, to introduce the song, but illustrated the talent of the young, up-and-coming musicians.
Junior Tucker was at his best, too, sprinkling his testimony on love between his songs. He opened his set with gospel (Sold Out and There is None Like You) before going back in time with some love songs - songs that he said were inspired by his wife, Trudy. The songs were Don't Test and Don't Touch My Baby.
"When you marry, it pays," he told the gathering by way of explaining that the songs became number ones and, by extension, allowed him to travel.
Ahead of singing another of his hits, I Think I Found the Love of a Lifetime, the iconic gospel artiste related the story behind the song. Steely and Clevie informed him that Beres Hammond wanted a song. So he wrote the lyrics, but Hammond did not show up at the studio, and he was told to voice the song instead, and, as they say, the rest is history. Tucker ended his set with a fine delivery of Stevie Wonder's Ribbons in the Sky.
Also on the programme was a message from evangelist Roderick Robinson, remarks from CEO of Family Life Ministries, Barry Davidson, and chairman Arnold Aiken.
The fulfilling evening ended with a promise not only to continue the banquet in the city, but to try for a second one in the St James communities of Flankers and Canterbury.