Positive parenting: A spiritual plea to parents
In a world where titles are readily sought to legitimise positions in the religious community, there is always the possibility that unscrupulous individuals will circumvent conventional paths to credentialisation.
The authentic religious leader is few and far between.
It is widely believed in the Caribbean diaspora of Brooklyn that Abbess Jennifer Rowe is one such leader.
Her road to the coveted title of Abbess has been arduous, challenging, seemingly crafted to test the best of wills.
This explains her emphasis on the mind in attaining success, be it secular, or spiritual.
"Our religious community is too reliant on form and rituals without a clear understanding of their inner meaning," said Rowe. "Without will and mental discipline, enlightenment is illusory."
A native of Trinidad, and a state-licensed cleric at Mount Tabor Spiritual Baptist Church in New York, Rowe has earned the respect of many. For years, she has been committed to charitable work at Brooklyn homeless shelters. She is also involved in pastoral counselling, and manages an annual 'Toys for Tots' Christmas event.
Now, she has turned her attention to minors whom she says have lost their moral bearing
"Our society and the world depend on the poise and responsibility of our young people. If they are swerving from the straight path our family structure is threatened. I am afraid we are at this critical juncture."
Rowe views, "authentic, mind-based spirituality", as essential for social restoration. "The mind is our tool and the greatest aspect of our will." She oftentimes invokes the philosophical injunction: "Know Thyself".
"Through God's power, we are able to realise our dreams. We have everything available to us to become His emissaries; to be creative, healthy, and successful."
She speaks of inspiration and flashes of genius, in the vein of a Zen master.
Rowe believes that timeless spiritual practises to nurture the mind should be understood and embraced by young people.
"I see baptism in a contractual sense. At that moment a commitment to be obedient is made. You become recipient to greater awareness, guidance and wisdom. It is a sacrament not to be taken lightly. It carries profound mystical properties," said Rowe.
She is also a proponent of fasting and cites its practise in every religion known to man.
"We cannot temper our emotions, desires, and temptations without self-control. Falling victim to peer pressure and the myriad forms of addiction is the most regrettable shortcoming of young people. The most effective way of combating this scourge is by fasting."
When asked at what age one should undergo this sometimes Herculean challenge, she refers to the fast of Ninevah (Jonah 1:1-2)
"From the highest to the lowest fasted to prevent an imminent catastrophe," Rowe offered while recalling this instructive lesson with passion. "They covered themselves with bristling sackcloth; even the king sat in ashes - yes, from the king to the infant, even the livestock."
Although written with some hyperbole, the message of mental strength, spiritual reflection, and resilience is applicable for all generations, many argue.
"During fasting, prayer and meditation are one's sustenance, one's food," Rowe continues as she notes that the practise varies in duration depending on intent and circumstances.
She concedes, though, that fasting should be undertaken with counsel and supervision, especially when involving minors. She also emphasises that individuals using medications should seek advice from their physicians.
One characteristic that defines the Spiritual Baptist movement is that of 'mourning'. "It goes hand in hand with fasting," states Rowe.
Devotees are secluded in prayer for days. Here, silence is golden. Inner prayer, meditation and internal chanting ignite a transformation in consciousness - from the carnal to the sacred; and the mundane to the sublime. It is an esoteric practise shrouded in secrecy and at times, controversy.
The practise that can last for up to 30 days has biblical support, according to teachers of the faith.
Daniel 10:1-10 is cited as evidence. The benefits of this undertaking are said to be monumental. The perceptive abilities are heightened and the healing, curative prowess is awakened.
Rowe acknowledges the culpability of adults and parents in the mire and hopelessness besetting many youths. "They are learning from us, but the wrong things."
She is critical of parents who resort to corporal punishment and verbal abuse to discipline recalcitrant children.
"If you speak blessings on your children they will be blessed. If you speak angrily to them, it's a form of cursing, and they will be cursed. The word and sentiments must spell love and must be spoken even at the embryonic stage of development," she asserts, while pointing to the physiological damages done to the foetus by alcoholic and drug abuse.
Rowe says: "Parents unsuspectingly transfer negative energies to the womb when they drown in destructive thoughts. Unfortunately, if parents are not loved or feel the power of love they cannot bestow it. It becomes a vicious cycle."
She presents a philosophy that fuses spirit and matter and uses spiritual tools to accomplish the unimaginable. Rowe advises parents to establish a spiritual foundation, a building block for posterity - a positive legacy.
"Our growth as a people hinges on self-examination and transmittance of ideals and principles to those most precious to us. It's admirable to leave material things to our children, but it is greater to engender ethics, to leave them with a moral compass.
"This is indestructible and immutable. Our heritage must be based on these standards. It's all well and good to speak about culture, but a culture that promotes selfishness, materialism arrogance, and zealotry is not worth having."