The first ever CWM Caribbean Members’ Mission Forum began with a celebration of CWM’s 40th anniversary, and was held 26-29 March 2017 in Kingston, Jamaica. Past participants, former trustees or directors met to recall their encounters, exposure and points of inspiration and challenge in an evening dedicated to sharing experiences of CWM’s programmes. At Hope United Church hall, it was a reunion of sorts for past TIM participants (2013 – 2016) from Guyana and Jamaica, with former TIM participants from Jamaica as far back as 1989.
2016 TIM participants spoke about ‘Coconut Theology’ and the ways in which they learned about the prevalence of issues such as domestic violence in countries in the Pacific region. A former Face to Face participant shared how he was ‘out of his comfort zone’ living amongst persons who had no electricity for 20 hours of each day but celebrated how they shared in communal living reminiscent of Acts 2. The evening highlighted ways in which these participants have continued mission in their own contexts.
Subsequently, thirteen participants comprising member church leadership, youth representatives, an ecumenical partner (CANACOM) and CWM regional and global staff spent time in worship, bible study, discussions and planning.
Former Regional Moderator, Rev. Norbert Stephens offered a challenge to CWM to affirm, re-affirm and communicate the Truth of our Theology by asking ourselves what the Kingdom of God ought to look like here on earth; Test our Temerity as we dare to hope for a future of justice and righteousness by continuing to work in the present; and ‘offer current contexts of tensions, terrorism and technology the Tell-tale signs of Transformation’. One practical way is by sharing success stories of transformative partnerships, interventions and advocacy.
Context reading of Cayman Islands, Guyana and Jamaica flagged areas of concern including financial challenges, gender relationships, suicide, unemployment, domestic violence, corruption and crime. The presentations also noted the ways in which the church was already at work bringing healing to brokenness through youth and children’s ministries, capacity building and seeking partnerships.
Aided by Rev. Dr. Kuzipa Nalwamba, CWM Mission Secretary for Communication, they reflected on the missiological imperatives in light of these areas and helped participants locate them in the context of empire. Rev. Henley Bernard steered participants towards engaging their understanding of God towards how they interpret and respond to the contextual discoveries.
Rev. Dr. Garnett Roper, President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary referenced Amos’ reading of the context in which he lived and worked and his prophecy which carried a damning verdict against the religious leaders whose lifestyle and business practices were inconsistent with their proclamations and worship. Noting how God eschewed religious offerings made alongside injustice and racketeering, he offered the challenge to the church to stand up and be counted noting that:
- God requires truth in the inward parts.
- Christian mission is not merely fashionable, particularly in contexts where the ‘boot of empire is resting on the throats of people’.
- The task of the church is to make the world more liveable and its people more personable. He concluded with the challenge that the faith and trust of God’s people which leads them to respond to the cries of people and the competent proclamation of God’s word.
Immersion visit: Inner-City Farming in Jamaica
An exposure experience in gender and economic justice allowed participants to see how a congregation, an NGO and the government were being instruments of healing in the face of brokenness. An economic initiative in the inner-city community of Trench Town, birthplace of Bob Marley. The group learned how the church offered the means for earning a living through the leasing of land for farming, provided training, infrastructure, partnership and the expertise of relevant organisations.
The next stop was a rich time of worship and fellowship with senior citizens who were given a space and voice by the Women Resource Outreach Centre, which seeks to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls while supporting boys and men as well. Finally came exposure to the work of the Jamaican government through its Bureau of Gender Affairs which includes policy development, research, community interventions and work in gender mainstreaming.
Buoyed and inspired by these experiences, MMF participants met in member church groups on their last day to do mission planning guided by the theologian and missiologists in residence. In the final session at the end of MMF ‘Framing the Agenda’ the group identified member church plans, regional plans and made suggestions for the global agenda.
Attendees appreciated this new programme design which gave space to process and add voice to a global partnership and a common agenda for humanity, preferring it over the former Roundtable approach.