Cheer throughout the year - Churches don’t wait on Christmas to care for the needy
Several members of the local Christian community have spent the past week spreading cheer and providing for the less fortunate as part of their celebration of Christmas.
But many religious leaders say while the work they are doing now gets the headlines and the front pages, the contribution they make all year round to assist the needy and maintain the social and economic balance in several communities is not being fully appreciated because they do not go about boasting of it.
"We are not credited for all that we have done because we don't publicise all that we do, but we are convinced that the situation would have been worse, had it not been for the ongoing intervention of the church," said the Reverend Dr Lenworth Anglin.
"A number of us have been involved and intervened in domestic issues, and are also doing preventive counselling. We have been doing this for years, some of us at the risk of losing our lives."
Anglin, who is currently pastor of two churches, one in Rock Hall and the other in Cavaliers, said while his churches had dinners and gave out gifts during the festive season, there is much more to their outreach.
"We are interested in impacting the lives of individuals, not just to see where they are at Christmas, but where they are in general, so we can help them. I do this as an ongoing ministry, but more so at Christmas," said Anglin, who is immediate past executive chairman of the Church of God in Jamaica.
Senior pastor of the Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God in the gritty community of August Town in St Andrew, the Reverend Dr Stephenson Samuels, said while the Church is the most organised and the most mobilised institution in almost all commu-nities in Jamaica, it goes about its work quietly.
"Part of the Church's core value is to do good without making noise about it; we do not PR our work," said Samuels, who is chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast Committee.
"Almost every church in Jamaica has a benevolence programme going on. Churches help people in all different kinds of ways. We pay a lot of school fees and give a lot of lunch money. We are involved in a lot of intervention. We are involved in a lot of the institutions like PMI (Peace Management Initiative).
"We are into things like mediation and restorative justice. Most of the basic schools ... are owned by the Church," added Samuels.
President of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, the Reverend Conrad Pitkin, argued that the Faith Temple Assembly of God, which he heads in Montego Bay, St James, does continuous social outreach programmes, including skills training.
"Come Christmas now, we do a lot of food baskets for the indigent and for the poor, and we go into various communities and do an evening of social [activities] with them," said Pitkin.
"At the beginning of a new school term, we give out just about everything to help the child to go back to school. We also have about 35 persons who get their lunch money and bus fare every week from the church to go to school."
FOCUS ON HEALTH, EDUCATION
Head of the Lighthouse Assembly Ministries, Bishop Rohan Edwards, said his church, which is based in violence-ravaged Spanish Town, St Catherine, puts a lot of focus on education and health, giving grants to several students and medication to persons who are aged and others who just cannot afford it.
"We operate a school for persons who can't read and write properly, and we do several subjects in CXC, especially maths and English which we do on a weekly basis for persons who need a second chance," said Edwards.
"We teach music to persons who are inclined to do music. We do a mentoring programme, where we target young people, and we are taking that in a broader scale now to go into communities - especially troubled communities - and teach some persons mentoring skills and let them mentor others in their communities," added Edwards.
The church leaders also argued that they do a lot to tackle the scourge of crime and violence in the island and have been reaping success.
"The minister's fraternal has been very involved in the life of the August Town community in terms of crime reduction. Nearly every single initiative in August Town that goes towards crime reduction has had the church being a significant player," said Samuels.