Bishop Delford Davis must be commended for his prayer initiative aptly entitled ‘Heal The Family, Heal The Nation’. The event is now in its fifth year and is endorsed by the six umbrella church groups in Jamaica. The event succeeded in getting the participation of the Prime Minister and the Governor General. It was a tremendous achievement to have over 10, 000 persons from various denominations and walks of life united in prayer.
‘Heal The Family, Heal The Nation’ convention has joined the National Prayer Breakfast, the National Prayer Vigil, Prayer 2000, Bawl-Out, and the hundreds of denominational conventions and crusades as prayer initiatives geared towards addressing the country’s spiritual and moral ills, escalating crime and violence and economic blight. In the main, the ‘prophetic word’ coming from these various prayer initiatives is usually a glowing promise of economic and social transformation, attributed to the power of prayer. As we are all experiencing, these prayer initiative have not achieved their objectives and the prophesies of transformation have not materialized. In fact, Jamaica Land We Love is rapidly becoming a place not to live, work, raise families, or to do business.
What is absent from these prayer initiatives is a serious analysis of the problems we face as a country and carefully designed strategies and programs to address them at the community and personal level. The prevailing attitude of the various prayer initiatives is to call on God to come down and fix the problems of Jamaica in a flash. It seems that the Jamaica church has taken the line of the song “go before us Lord, go before us and do thy work thyself” too literal. It is not that the church prays too much, the problem is that after prayers, everything is literally left in the ‘hands of the Lord’.
Historically, the church has been at the forefront of social transformation and national development in Jamaica and the Caribbean – from the non-conformist missionaries who fought against slavery, to the missionaries who pioneered the Free Village Movement that gave the ex-slaves economic subsistence, to Bishop Percival Gibson who initiated several educational opportunities for average Jamaicans; to Father Hugh Sherlock who worked tirelessly for community development.
It was the church which pioneered the formal education system, teacher education and the Credit Union Movement in Jamaica. Unfortunately, the church has retreated to a religiosity characterized by mega events, opulent edifices, prosperity preaching and fundraising.
It is not unreasonable to associate the decline in moral standards, weakening family structure, unstable communities, and increased crime and violence to this retreat by the church. Did the church leaders take note that over 80 per cent of the 10,000 persons who thronged the arena to heal the family and the nation were women? Have they noticed how feminized the Jamaican church has become?
There is therefore an urgent need for the church to rediscover both its biblical mandate and its social relevance. Let us start by implementing mentorship programs for our boys and utilize the church facilities for remedial education and skills training; let us begin to offer parenting and life skills sessions for the community; let us assist principals to revive the clubs and uniform groups in schools; let us join or lead the Labour Day projects in the community rather than hosting church events; let us start or revive the neighbourhood watch or citizens’ association in our communities.
Most importantly, the church should start a program of teaching their congregants and the wider community, in a practical way, how they can pledge the love and loyalty of their heart, the wisdom and courage of their mind, the strength and vigour of their body in the service of their fellow citizens. The church must be at the forefront of leading the community to ‘stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that, vJamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race’. Amen.
Orville Plummer, firstname.lastname@example.org