A quarter-century doing God's work
Members and friends of the Port Maria Seventh-day Baptist Church in Port Maria, St Mary, celebrated 25 years of growth and activity last week with a special anniversary service. This was followed by a panel discussion on the relevance of the church in the 21st century.
Founding pastor, the Reverend Carlton Ferguson, who no longer serves at the church but maintains close links with the congregation and current pastors, revelled in the anniversary merriment and was clearly overjoyed by the ministry's success.
Speaking after the service, he told Family and Religion: "These celebrations are wonderful because they show how God has directed the group to this point. You can see God's guidance leading people's lives through the difficulties, discouragement and perplexities.
"I think the reason we've managed to stay around for so long is that we rely upon the word of God, and that helps us along. We trust in God, and our reliance on Him has allowed the church and even me to get to where we are."
ATTRACTING NEW MEMBERS
Nevertheless, like most churches across the country, attracting new, younger members is a problem. Ferguson believes the solution can be found, but only with increased and more targeted engagement.
He explained: "We, too, have the problem of not having enough young people in our church, and as soon as they reach a particular age, they're gone. What can we do? First, our churches should have more programmes that reach out to the needs of our young people. And, second, there must be more early training in young people's homes to help them be more acquainted with church and their God. In order to keep them, we must upgrade our presentation. We cannot rely on just talking the word. We have to start using other means to get the word out; I'm talking about media and technology."
Ferguson believes that if the church, which has run a small school and daycare centre for the past 12 years, is to survive for another quarter of a century, its members must learn to develop and exhibit even deeper levels of love and commitment.
He said: "The thing I wish for most of all is more dedicated and committed leadership. In our situation, the pastors are not in the congregation every week. When they are out, there needs to be leadership to carry on.
"If the leadership is weak, the congregation will go down, but where there is strong, vibrant, dedicated and firm leadership, the churches always grow."
He added: "I think the biggest problem is that the members aren't living according to how God wants them to live; shining their light in the community so that the community can see Christ reflecting in them and seek to come to know Christ.
"With what is happening in the world and how certain things are being portrayed and put forward, we are getting less and less Christ-like, and slowly moving away from God."