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YOU, ME & CSME – Church and development

Michelle Cave

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YEARS AGO, an elder in a West African village whispered what he called the secret of the universe in my ear.
He said: “Whenever you enter a new city, courageously shower the people with attention, love and interest. Those who return said attention with great humour, they are useful and productive and worthy of your company. Those who return your interest with suspicion and antagonism, dismiss and hold their person and opinion always at a distance. And those who return said love with the same, befriend and know them as kin, understanding and respecting the dance of life.” A few weeks ago, I sat down with The Most Reverend and Dr The Honourable John W. D. Holder and The Right Reverend Dr Rufus T Brome at their respective offices. This was just prior to the annual gathering of the Caribbean’s Anglican clergy meeting in synod.I had one burning, multi-layered question for them and, in truth, it was to take hours of conversation to answer: Was there something wrong in how our societies were progressing and if so, was the Church setting itself up to fix it?I did not walk out of the interviews with these two gentlemen of the cloth the same way I went in. I found them far more focused, able-minded and understanding of the challenges facing the development of our societies and of our spirituality, than I quite frankly imagined they would be.The conversation centred around stewardship as the role of the Church in relation to our communities’ development, the individual’s development, countries’ development and the region’s development.Viewing stewardship as embracing accountability, responsibility, development, management, outreach, evangelism and youth ministry in every community and in every individual, these gentlemen understood their role as one of facilitation, helping people to embrace and take responsibility for their spiritual development and growth.They spoke of the strength and vibrancy of community that would come only from a church that takes its mandate from 2 Timothy 4:2 – Proclaim the Word. Be urgent in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke and exhort. Be unfailing in patience and teaching.They spoke of having people understanding clergy in the light of St Paul, and how he saw it as essential for him to teach the clergy that their chosen mission entailed being models of cooperation and support to the development of congregations and communities, paying special attention and commitment to the individual’s development.These two learned men each spoke at length about St Paul’s treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13 and how this, as the under-girder of Caribbean peoples forming community, society and family, would not let them falter from their chosen paths and contributions to each other. Inside of these are lessons for countries and communities and companies experiencing a vulnerability never before challenged.They spoke about the workshops that the clergy would attend at the upcoming synod and the focus they had on Romans 13, 9-10 as it specially encourages clergy, communities and individuals alike to: Let love be genuine, Hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection . . . Outdo one another in showing honour.They both agreed that people’s spiritual development was their own but that it was the Church that was ordained with the responsibility to take on the spiritual development of individuals and communities, paying close attention to the everyday experiences of life and working with the bonds that can more and more hold us together; grounding them for members of their communities with individual commitment and development.In this way, they explained, individuals with focused effort will begin to understand themselves as the types of individuals who understand and respect each other’s particular contributions.They showed how leadership and cooperation in our communities is not the exclusive domain of clergy, but also that of the community called to the particular service, sharing and giving. They see the real task here as having people realise that giving and sharing in the service must occur cheerfully with no trace of reluctance.With their attention on having people know the Church space as one in which they can “experience the love of God in a special way”, the Church has set up small committees throughout the region to consistently assess reformations and restructurings to better serve communities.• Michelle Cave has done her thesis on the regional integration movement.