'Denominational issues affecting the Church'
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
Reverend Bruce Farrell of the New Testament Assembly in Hamilton Mountain, St Mary, is a composed and soft-spoken man who serves as a local councillor in the district of Oracabessa, where his church is based.
He describes himself as a "son of the soil", who has lived in the parish most of his life; attended Oracabessa's primary and high schools; and grew up in a household where both parents were ministers.
Farrell acknowledges that peoples' general attitude to and perception of the church is changing, but does he believe the institution should respond by embracing modern conventions or maintaining traditional values?
He told Family and Religion: "Certain things are inevitable and will happen as we evolve. At present, our church is contemplating the theme 'Safeguarding the foundation of our faith' for the New Year because we realise the changes that are coming that will affect the church. How the church prepares itself for and deals with those changes is another thing.
"Things have changed and are changing. What we really have to do is identify some core values of the Church, insist they remain, and contend strictly for those. The doctrines will even change from time to time because church rules are different from Biblical rules, but there are some principals that govern the Church and our way of life that we just can't afford to make society impact."
Farrell is unhappy that some churches refuse to engage with others and believes the discord this creates may be one of the biggest religious issues affecting the parish.
He explains: "I think the disunity that exists with some denominations is a problem. We've had the Ministers Fraternal in Oracabessa for some time now, but there are some people who don't really associate, which brings about denominational issues from time to time.
"I don't know if it is because of their interpretation of scriptures and how they perceive themselves, but there are still a few churches that have this self-righteous attitude that says they are probably 'the chosen ones', so they don't associate with other people."
As he prepares for 2016, Farrell reveals the best Christmas present he could receive would be a group of staunchly-dedicated and spiritually-charged believers.
He said: "If I could get all my members, congregants, and non-congregants to seek to have personal relationships with God, not necessarily to only talk about what the Bible or somebody else says, but to have a relationship that nobody can tell you about because you know it for yourself. That's what I wish for.
"I think that would really make a difference because people like that are more convicted and convinced. No winds of doctrine or any other external force can dissuade them because they know what they know, and that will keep them grounded."