'Church must be proactive to combat laziness, greed'
"The biggest problem right now is that a lot of people just go to church for the sake of tradition, but don't really believe in the word of God."
For the past 20 years, Seventh-day Baptist pastor Carlton Beckford has preached in Albion Mountain, St Mary, where he was born and raised. A spate of violent killings, including the brutal murder of two United States missionaries, has placed his community under the spotlight in recent weeks and Beckford believes the rise in murders is linked to a decrease in the number of responsible parents.
Moreover, the minister insists that although the parish has a large number of churches, few really pay attention to the lessons Jesus taught.
He told Family and Religion: "First, let me correct something. It's been reported that the murders of the US Christians Randy [Hentzel] and Harold [Nichols] were in Albion Mountain, but they were killed on a property called Wentworth, which is close by."
He ccontinued: "I don't know if laziness is a part of the problem because we have some young people springing up now who don't want to work. When they fall down, that's the only time dirt catches their hands.
"There is laziness and a greed for money. They don't want to work, so they kill innocent people like those two men, who have come to help. Nowadays, you have some young people who go anywhere, come home with anything, and nobody questions them," he said.
"You'll find a number of people are recipients of some of their things - money, clothes, shoes, or whatever is brought in, and so things get out of hand. Some people's children are just let loose. I think we need better parenting and for parents to take responsibility of their children. That's the only way we can come back from some of these situations."
While the citizens of St Mary are ultimately responsible for their own safety and security, Beckford acknowledges that the Church has a significant role to play in helping to rehabilitate the parish and create a more congenial environment.
He explained: "As a church, we need to be more proactive; even if we have to go house by house to reach the people because some of them are not coming to church. The politicians go house by house and street by street to secure their votes. So, we have to secure people for the kingdom of God, and if it takes that energy, then that's what we should do."
According to Beckford, who ministers in St Mary at churches in Albion Mountain and Dressikie, and in Wakefield, Trelawny, the path ahead for church leaders is challenging as they must simultaneously attract, engage, and educate new followers.
He said: "The biggest problem right now is that a lot of people just go to church for the sake of tradition, but don't really believe in the word of God. Their conviction is not strong, so they go to church and just go through the motions. Meet them tomorrow to reproduce what they have learned, and there is a problem. Although a lot of people may go to church, few are really heavenly-minded because most people do not take heed to what they are taught in church."