Misinformed attack on the Church
The Editor, Sir:
When I was much younger and used to play football, it was a common saying, 'If you can't play the ball, play the man!' In a recent article I conveyed the statement by the Concerned Church Leaders Group, a body which consists of almost all the churches in Jamaica, in which objections were raised to the proposed implementation of a flexi work week programme, without providing the safeguards of the right to worship, which were agreed to in the national plan formulated in 2003.
Hunter Gray, in an article in The Gleaner of December 28 titled 'Attack on which worship?', instead of indicating the benefits which he felt could be obtained from a flexi work week, launched an attack against the Church in which he declared that the Church was now self-serving, and did not care about the welfare of most of needy citizens.
He stated that the Church must do more than merely give them evidence of things unseen, but must provide them "with the means to make a living". Gray is clearly misled. This is not the main function of the Church, this is the function of the Government. But it is amazing how much the Church has actually done to fulfil this expectation of Mr Gray.
Without doubt, the most important resource which will enable citizens to make a living is education. It is now the role of the Government to provide the financing of the nation's educational system, but what body was it which put the schools and other educational institutions in place so that they can now be financed by the Government?
Let us look at the fact:
Before 1900, every primary school in Jamaica was a Church foundation.
Until today, the main secondary schools were founded by the Church e.g. Kingston College, St Georges College, Calabar, Campion, Ardenne, St Andrews, St Hugh's, St Hilda's, Westwood, Meadowbrook, Clarendon College, Knox, to name only a few.
It was those who do the odd thing called 'worship' who established the first teacher-training institutions - Lady Mico was a devout Christian. Bethlehem, St Josephs, Church Teachers Colleges are all Church foundations. The first person to commence early childhood teacher training was the Rev Madge Saunders, a 'worshipper'.
At the tertiary level, Knox Community College, Northern Caribbean University and the International University of the Caribbean are Church institutions.
The first skills-training institution was Carron Hall Vocational Institute, established by the Presbyterian Church.
The education of persons with disabilities, the disadvantaged in the society, has been almost entirely the work of the Church - the Salvation Army taught the blind to read and the dumb to speak; the Caribbean Association for the Deaf at Knockpatrick first made the deaf hear and speak through sign language.
With regard to care for the needy in the ghettos of Jamaica, it was the Methodist, Father Hugh Sherlock (who wrote our National Anthem) who established Boys' Town in Trench Town. Girls Town was founded by Christians. The St Andrew Settlement is an Anglican foundation. Father Holung and the Missionaries of the Poor attribute their motivation to One whom they worship. It is Food for the Poor who continues to build houses for the homeless and provide many other kinds of material help for hundreds across Jamaica.
The founder will tell you that it is his relationship with the unseen Christ which brought it into being. To refer to the challenge of Hunter Gray, it is the Salvation Army and countless churches in Jamaica which provide soup kitchens for the poor, breakfasts and lunches for school children, and "feed more than 5,000" every day.
With regard to the link between religion and morals, which organisation has guided and developed the moral values of children, young people and adults more than the Sunday Schools, sabbath schools, Boys and Girls Brigades, Boys Scouts and Girl Guides, youth fellowships, inter-schools cchristian fellowships, Schools Christian Movement, and Inter-Varsity Fellowship, all under the auspices of the Church?
When the burdens of life begin to take their toll on employed as well as unemployed and their lives are falling apart, to where do they turn? It is the counselling services of the Church which have rescued many from abject hopelessness and despair. The unseen is more powerful than the seen.
But physical as well as spiritual health is important. The Church has led the world in establishing hospitals. Here in Jamaica, the Nuttall hospital, St Josephs, and Andrews Memorial hospitals are all Church foundations, not to mention the many free clinics operated by 'worshippers' throughout the island.
I have stated facts. Would Mr Gray be kind enough to indicate the many comparable benefits which would accrue to the society if worship were minimised and flexi work week implemented, using statistics from 'other jurisdictions' as his evidence? Need I add, the ball is now in your part of the field. Please, kick it instead of the Church.
I am, etc.,
Rev EARL THAMES
Concerned Church Leaders Group