The Church is on a Mission
What is the Church doing? The short response by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to this question is that the United Church is committed to being missional! The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) welcomes this opportunity provided by the Gleaner Company to share with the wider public some elements of its ongoing work.
It is important, however, to locate the United Church within the wider ecumenical movement even as we talk about being 'missional', that is seeking to meet the varying needs of people in the communities in which we are located.
The history of the Caribbean is replete with testimony of the work and witness of the Church within the region, although it is undeniable that this record has been a mixed one. It is true for instance that sections of the Church were party to the enslavement of our forebears, but it is also true that there were other sections of the Church who, from earliest times, have been unyielding in their commitment and action for the upliftment of the disadvantaged. Since the period of Emancipation, the Church has been in the forefront of community - formation and community transformation.
WORK IN EDUCATION
Indeed, before education became a government project in this society, it was a mission priority for the Church. Our work in education in both nations spans all levels, including nine high schools, numerous early childhood centres (basic schools), a number of preparatory schools in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and one university (IUC) through which the Church seeks to respond to the education needs in Jamaica and Cayman.
The project of amelioration began during the days of slavery, has continued through Emancipation to the present day. It is little, if any secret, that combined, the Church is perhaps the largest non-governmental agency engaged in action which seeks to improve the lot of the disadvantaged and less fortunate
The United Church currently operating in two nations (Jamaica and the Cayman Islands) is currently involved in advocacy in two significant areas. First, it is pursuing the production of a policy on child care and protection for our pastors and church workers, as well as developing training manual to facilitate knowledge and use of the contents of the policy; working in collaboration with a number of other agencies to accomplish this.
Second, the UCJCI has established a task force focused on the ministry to and with persons with disabilities. This task force functions with three objectives, building awareness, advocacy and engagement. Our primary aim is to make the UCJCI a friendly space for persons with disabilities.
Our ongoing work in the community is well established. We believe that stronger communities make for a stronger nation. Thus, in addition to the numerous interventions at the community level in a large number of our congregations, including homework centres, feeding, health and counselling programmes, we currently operate two children's homes, one senior citizens home; and in partnership with the correctional services, a rehabilitation centre for prisoners. We also operate the Bethesda Counselling Services Centre in Grand Cayman.
Our latest ecumenical initiative will focus on expanding the existing counselling services for persons with mental health issues across the Island.
So, what is the Church doing? It is continuing its on-going thrust to meet the needs of people within the Church as well as in the wider community. It is committed to being missional!
n Reverend Norbert Stephens is general secretary of The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.