May 10 Blog
We’ve had two full, very full, days in a parish in Kingston. I was fortunate to be with Bishop Andrew Curnow from Bendigo, Australia, and Daniel Taolo from Central Africa (for my St. Peter’s Cobourg readers, this is the Province that includes Malawi). Because of exhaustion tonight (and it’s only 8-ish), I’m going to point form two sets of comments: one, things that the visit included; two, some initial impressions from the visit.
What We Did
Several tourist events…the Bob Marley home and museum, Port Royal (full of stories of Henry Morgan and Horatio Nelson), marvellous ice cream at Devon House, the home of the first black millionaire in Jamaica, all the above with the parish priest, Jim Parkes, and the chair of the organizing committee for our visit, Margaret.
A really pleasant and scrumptious outside dinner at a private home of a parishioner with the Parish Committee (equivalent to our Executive or Advisory Board).
Overnight at a parishioner’s home, where we were surrounded by gracious hospitality, and welcomed by a most gracious host.
A 5:30 a.m. call for getting ready for church, which, in this parish, begins at 7:30!!!! However, as the day got hotter, we saw why.
A service that was reverential, steel pan band of young people, a singing group sponsored by police, a liturgical dance group, good hymns, a choir with some special soloists, one of which is the leader of our singing during the Council meeting, a good solid sermon on mission by Andrew, blessing of those with birthdays, anniversaries, travel events etc.
A chance I asked for for a few minutes to play a steel pan…no music made, but wonderful sound, even more so when you are right on top of it!
A brunch which most of the congregation attended replete with Jamaican food…salt fish and acki (spelling unsure), collard greens, dumplings, fruit salad, chocolate tea( hot), cake…get the picture? By now we were rolling in food! And treated like kings and queens.
A good discussion on mission…what were the key areas of mission in our churches, and what are theirs?
And gifts and farewells, then time for drinks and more food at another parishioner’s home.
This is a church in the city centre, but more than half of its parishioners come from outside the parish boundaries. They are trying to reach out…holding a health clinic once a week, serving families with AIDS etc., but feel much more can be done.
The liturgy is well done, music great, but it will need to involve some experimentation in liturgy to attract people who otherwise will gravitate towards the rambunctious, screaming worship leaders that we heard emanating from other churches of a different breed as we drove through Port Royal this afternoon.
Having visitors from outside the world of a parish has the potential to bring new views of Christianity, of Christian practice, of our linkage with each other in the Communion. We should be doing it more where we live.
Friendships happen fast under these circumstances. Jamaicans love to be hospitable and to entertain, and we were certainly the recipients of that love. We would be much more reserved, and far less generous.
The upper middle class in Kingston is well educated, most of the women have full time responsible jobs and family care too, and people have fun.
People here asked quite insightful questions about the ACC, about the autonomy of local Provinces vs. the linkage that ACC has been meeting about. They are educated about the Communion and about church issues. Not as easy to find where we are…we would be more focussed on parish issues. Their parishes are important, but they see farther. Is that because we came and they had been talking about it, or is that because they are an island that has many visitors, and they also travel out of the country a great deal? Or why?
Not very profound thoughts, but clearly, we all have learned much and tomorrow we will share these impressions, especially the highlights of our talk about mission. Today, instead of making decisions about the Communion, we WERE the Communion in action, and the experience was superb on both sides!
After being with an Australian for almost two days, I think the proper sign-off should be