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The church has failed Jamaica's youth, says former JTA head

Published:Tuesday | December 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Clayton Hall addressing a retirement function for teachers in Lucea, Hanover, on Friday night.

Former President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Clayton Hall, says the church in Jamaica has failed in its role as an agent of socialisation for the nation's children.

According to Hall, despite Jamaica's record of having the most churches per square mile than any other country in the world, the Church, as an institution, has not only failed to attract young people, but has seemingly made no concerted effort to reverse that trend.

"If you pass the Church on a Sunday, you will realise why the church as a socialising role has failed. Churches have now become a hospice for persons who are close to, or in retirement. Our children are no longer being exposed to church and religious teachings. I recall during my days - which wasn't very long ago - when mommy and daddy are not going to church, but you can mark it down, pickney gone to church every Sunday or every Saturday, depending on which you decide," Hall said during a recent retirement function for two teachers in Lucea.

A place for retirees

"We have challenges with family and those are inherent. The Church, now, is not able to reach the population. During the '60s, '70s and '80s, you would have parents sending the children to church, whether or not they (parents) are Christians. Also, churches had significant outreach programmes that would reach children in communities wherever they are. What we have found now is that churches have been on the decline - and maybe not so much on the decline, but on the recline. They are retreating into themselves and churches have now become a place for retirees," Hall added in a follow-up interview with Western Focus.

Hall, who is now the regional manager of the JTA's western chapter, said due to the Jamaican family structure being eroded, the school, as the third main agent of socialisation, is being overly burdened.

"When everything outside the walls of the school has broken down, schools remain the agent of socialisation that we can't afford to fail. Families are breaking up - left, right and centre; we are being introduced to what persons call families that we know can't be families, because opposites must attract and similar poles repel," he said.

Added responsibility

"I grew up with two grannies - one was Anglican, the other was Adventist, so I went to church both Saturday and Sunday. But our church is no longer reaching the students - the young ones as they ought to, and, so now, schools have to now take on added responsibility for fashioning tomorrow's generation," he said.

The former Spanish Town High School principal recommended that the Church devise strategies, such as the use of technology, to attract and maintain the interest of the nation's youth.

"How do these churches impact the lives of the younger generation? We need to have churches set up gaming stations - whatever you use to attract the children as long as you get them, you can inculcate positive values - set up video games, set up some movies, set up karaoke. Find a way to get them out and then you can get the information to them," he said.

"I think churches should now go on the offensive. Find out what will interest the children so that you can interest them in what you want them to hear," Hall stated.