The church building communities and families
Meeting needs effectively, is a constant goal of the Church, even when those needs are challenging. Housing continues to be an area of great need for many Jamaicans and Ridgemount United under the visionary leadership of the Reverend J. Oliver Daley, since 1999, joining in partnership with Peru Community (Presbyterian) Church in New York over the last 12 years has been seeking to meet this need by providing a house each year for a needy person or family annually.
The 2015 beneficiary was Dwight Pryce, a dedicated father of two girls, who is unemployed and raising his daughters on his own.
Ridgemount United Church, located in Mandeville, Manchester, is a member church of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI). In living out the United Church's vision of 'Touching lives, nurturing disciples, seeking transformation through Christ', the church has been serving the community of Mandeville, Manchester, since 1837, and has been impacting the life of many through its various ministries.
The church's outreach ministry covers a number of activities. A food bank delivers of food packages once per month to more than 100 families in the parish. In addition, a benevolent fund provides assistance for children requiring back-to-school items, doctor's fees, assistance for eye-glasses and various other medical expenses, and university fees. Counselling and mediation services for persons sent by the court are also provided along with grief counselling for those who have lost loved ones.
In its latest thrust to provide housing for the most needy in its surrounding community, the church worked together with the Peru Community Church which began its link with Jamaica in 2000 and started a partnership with Ridgemount United Church in 2003. In that year, a house was re-roofed. This partnership which began with the collaboration of then minister of the Peru Community Church Kenneth Parker and his wife, evolved under the current minister, Reverend Dr Bob Svenson, who continues to inspire members each year to help meet the housing needs of people in Manchester.
Through this partnership with Ridgemount United Church, a house has been built and provided free of cost to an indigent person or needy family every year since 2004. The house is built of wood. It has a zinc roof, which may be painted blue or red. Beneath, is a ceiling made from sheet rock to insulate occupants from the heat. There is a back door. The front door opens onto a tiny veranda with white railings. A neat glass window on each side of the house can be opened to let in air. Outside, the finish may be a chirpy peach or a cool yellow. Inside, the pastel shade is easy on the eyes. The crowning touch is usually a brand new bed.
Houses like this have been erected in Somerset, Comfort, Mike Town, New Green, Richmond, New Hall, Kendal, Edinburgh District, and Mandeville. A total of 12 houses have so far been built
The beneficiaries of the houses are identified through the church's outreach ministry. Teams from the outreach ministry visit potential beneficiaries to garner information on their personal circumstances and to verify the existence, location, and suitability of proposed sites for the house. Sometimes there are several candidates, but unfortunately not all the needs can be met.
Through the combined efforts of these two congregations, lives have been touched and circumstances transformed in a positive way and hope has been brought to souls in despair. The missional church has a responsibility to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ in both word and deed and the church is doing just that.
n Rose Wedderburn, is the regional deputy general secretary of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Southern Regional Mission Council of Jamaica.