GCU Theme: “GCU On The Move: Creating The Right Image”
Guyana Congregational Union (GCU) is the body representing the union of Congregational Churches within the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, South America. The Congregational Christian doctrine was brought to Guyana (then called British Guiana) by the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1808, at the request of a Plantation Owner – Mr. Hermanus Hilbertus Post. Rev. John Wray, LMS Missionary, arrived on the shores of Guyana on February 06, 1808 and began ministering to the slaves on Mr. Post’s plantation, including teaching them to read and write. The mission grew with the establishment of Churches in various parts of the country and the first schools in the Demerara and Berbice districts. The Congregational Churches were united in 1883 to form the British Guyana Congregational Union, now known as the Guyana Congregational Union (GCU). The Union currently comprises thirty two (32) active Congregations.
The GCU is a Member of the Guyana Council of Churches (GCC), Council for World Mission (CWM), Caribbean and North America Council for Mission (CANACOM), Caribbean and North America Area Council (CANAAC) and World Council of Reformed Churches (WCRC). The Presbytery of Guyana and Guyana Presbyterian Church are local ecumenical partners. Although being a country on the continent of South America, Guyana is a member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As such, the GCU is a part of the CWM Caribbean region, along with member Church, the United Church in Jamaica & the Cayman Islands (UCJCI). The GCU’s involvement with the CWM dates back to the denomination’s beginnings with the LMS, and the Church continues to be actively involved in the programmes of the CWM.
- Youths who have participated in the CWM Training in Mission (TIM) programme have returned to Guyana and started community outreach mission projects – capacity development programme for youths; empowering youths to make positive life choices by educating and informing them about social and life-affirming issues; working with victims of domestic violence.
- The training of persons for the pastoral ministry in the ecumenical based Formation for Ministry & Mission (FMM) programme.
- Ministers participated in the CWM Roving School of Theology for Transformation (RSTT) training in Georgetown, Guyana, November 08-11, 2016.
- Two youths participating in the CWM Global Youth Forum – August 22-28, 2017, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- One youth participating in the CWM Global Communications Training, August 28-30, 2017, in Singapore.
- Assisted thirteen young persons with grants and loans through the Caribbean Regional Empowerment Fund (CREF) programme to undertake small entrepreneurial business ventures.
- The GCU partners with the Moravian and Methodist Churches in ministry to a United Mission Church; this mission has been in existence since 1954.
- The GCU is a participant in Guyana’s Social Cohesion consultations, which deals with the social issues pervading the nation and how the state can effectively address these issues.
- Has received a Partner in Mission (PIM) from the UCJCI to work in the area of Administration – June 2017.
Mission Success Stories
“Celebrating Theological Education in the Life of the Guyana Congregational Union” – The ministry and mission of the GCU have been significantly impacted by the CWM’s sponsorship of six candidates for training in the ordained ministry – Leander Warren, Claire Smith, Virgil Marshall, Keith Haley, Glen Johnson and Paulette Hannibal. These Ministers were all trained at the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI), Kingston, Jamaica. This came at a critical juncture in the life of the GCU when there were only four ordained ministers, all closer to seventy years of age, who were tasked with extending pastoral responsibility across thirty-four Congregations.
The Decade for Advance Renewal and Evangelism (DARE) was launched by the GCU in January 1990, and in 1995, a half-term review was conducted, with assistance from CWM’s Secretary for Education in Mission, Rev. Dr. Roderick Hewitt. Coming out of that review, the GCU established its Mission Education Unit (MEU); UTCWI Graduates – Revds. Claire Smith, Glen Johnson and Keith Haley – were three of the four persons who comprised that Unit. The MEU was given the mandate to facilitate training for all the various leaders within the Union. Initially, training was facilitated for Deacons, Stewards, Church Secretaries and Treasurers. A Manual for Deacons and Stewards was also developed. Workshops were conducted for Music and Worship Leaders, and Leadership Retreats were introduced in many of our Churches.
Next, was the launching of the Lay Pastor’s In-Service Certificate Course (LPICC) in 1996. The LPICC was a 2-year programme which provided training for persons who wanted to step up to a higher level of service. In its first two offerings, the LPICC was conducted in conjunction with the Guyana Council of Churches (GCC). The LPICC was later upgraded to the Formation for Ministry and Mission (FMM) programme, in response to the acute shortage of ordained leadership among the reformed Churches; the prohibitive cost of overseas theological education was also a factor in this decision. Since its inception, the FMM programme has been training men and women for the pastoral ministry in Guyana; Revds. Keith Haley and Paulette Hannibal continue to serve in that programme. They extend gratitude to the staff of the UTCWI (Lecturers, Administration and Ancillary) and the UCJCI (which facilitated and supervised their internship assignments) for the knowledge and exposure gained while they were ministry students. The entire training experience integrally contributed to their personal development and equipped them to undertake mission in education in the Guyana context. To God be the Glory!
Messy Church and Men’s Fellowship
Out of information gained and insights gleaned while attending CWM’s March 2013 Roundtable Meeting on Developing Missional Congregations and the Children-Friendly Church, and his 2014 visit to the Congregational Federation in London, Rev. Noel Holder returned to Guyana resolving to introduce the concept of Messy Church in his two Congregations. The 3rd Sunday of each month is designated Messy Sunday, when everyone – members and others, children and adults – worship together in the same space. There are open discussions, multimedia presentations, interactive Bible Study/quiet hour, craft work and the sharing of food. Parents are especially invited to come to Church with their children, and while the children break away for Church School the parents remain in the Service. A play area with a swing and slides has also been erected for the children. Observation of the state of the men ‘on the corner’ gave birth to the Men’s Fellowship. The men gather for regular Friday meetings at Ann’s Grove and several street meetings have been held with the men at Victoria. Open and frank discussions are engaged on topics such as life challenges; being a good husband; budgeting and the effective use of money; fornication and adultery; spousal challenges and attitudes; family Prayer. These interactions led to the men not merely attending Church on Father’s Day 2017, but they practised and performed a group song at the Service. Rev. Holder is convinced that Churches must be missional; leaders need to strategically plan mission activities, as they seek to engage God’s People in God’s Mission in a holistic way.
In November 2011, the GCU embarked on a micro credit revolving fund initiative, under the auspices of the Caribbean Regional Empowerment Fund (CREF) programme. The project’s aim was to equip young persons age 18-35 years, who possessed the relevant knowledge and skills, to either expand their current business or start a new one. The GCU partnered with the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) to train seventeen persons in entrepreneurship and business plan preparation. Based on the eligibility criteria, thirteen (13) of these trainees qualified for, and received, a loan of GYD$210,000.00 and a grant of GYD$40,000.00 each. The business ventures undertaken were poultry and pig rearing, garment manufacturing, farming, food preparation, grocery sales, photography, hairdressing and play school. The loan agreement provided for the loans being repaid over a 12-month period (ending December 2012); regrettably, one beneficiary died before completing her repayment, nine completed their repayments, and the remaining three are still at different stages of their repayment efforts. One of the businesses was very successful and that beneficiary later received a further loan for expansion from the IPED. Feedback from the beneficiaries indicated that the scheme had benefited them in various ways – they were able to accomplish many things for themselves and their families, provide goods and services to their communities and others, as well as the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from owning a business.
Youth Mission Projects – Three mission projects have been established by young persons who participated in the CWM TIM programme within the past three years. Delon Grandison (2014) believes that the Church is a hospital or safe haven for the community and is the place where persons should receive their positive influence. His project is called Den Amstel Dynamic Network, with the purpose of motivating youths through church ministries towards building their capacity for personal development. He is committed to be a positive influence to the youth within his community. The project has been registered under the Youth Empowerment arm of the Guyana Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport. Ominell Boyce (2015) has formed Ubuntu Young People (which means, ‘I am because we are Young People’). The TIM experience helped her to discover her weaknesses, so she works with young people to help them express their thoughts and ideas, which are then used to empower them to make positive life choices, while educating and informing them about social and life-affirming issues. For Trishtana De Cunha (2016), mission is about healing and relieving of burdens. Her project Hands Down – let us come together and end domestic violence – was born out of a consciousness of the high level of domestic violence in Guyana. She seeks to listen to, empower and help, especially, young people who are affected by domestic violence, as they go through their healing journey.
- Young persons are not coming forward in response to a Call for candidacy to pursue training in the Ordained ministry.
- Ministers and Pastors are approaching/have attained retirement age, with no successors in waiting.
- Church buildings and Manses are in need of urgent renovation.
- Implementation of the 5-year Strategic Plan, 2017-2022 – October 2017.
- Capacity Development Training for Ministers, Pastors, Deacons and other Church Leaders – October 2017.
- Celebration of 210 years of Congregationalism in Guyana and the 135th Anniversary of the GUYANA CONGREGATIONAL UNION (GCU) – 2018.
- Revision of the GCU Constitution.
- Upgrading of the GCU general administration.
The GCU is working assiduously to achieve the ‘right (21st century) image’ within the next five years, and recognizes that this will become a reality only (and if) the capacity of its various leaders is adequately and appropriately developed to effectively perform the duties of the respective roles. The Church will also be seeking to identify critical mission opportunities in which to engage, especially as it relates to community development, so as to achieve the goal of fullness of life for all God’s Creation. The Union boasts of a cadre of vibrant and brilliant young persons who possess the potential to be future leaders of the GCU. The Church will be nurturing these young persons in their spiritual growth and development, and hone and harness their leadership skills as part of its succession planning activities. While mission projects are being undertaken, much work needs to be done to facilitate Church growth and improved income. Active evangelism and teachings on Christian stewardship will be integral components of the ministry, going forward. Poverty, the high rate of crime and domestic violence are social issues of deep concern to the Church. The GCU will be partnering with national Social Cohesion efforts, as well as initiating intervention in individual cases to bring about renewal and restoration.
Our Prayer request is for God’s granting of the divine wisdom, courage, strength and commitment to make the relevant changes in our modus operandi to move the GCU forward, ensure its perpetuity and become known as the missional Church in Guyana.