A taste of Jamaican culture and mission

By on June 1, 2009

Kingston, Jamaica
From opening and closing eucharists that showcased this island nation’s prodigious musical gifts and liturgical expressions to “mission encounters” and parties that gave new meaning to the word “hospitality”, the diocese of Jamaica and Cayman Islands hosted an Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting that delegates said would be a tough act to follow.

Bishop John Paterson, chair of the 14th ACC meeting, paid tribute to the diocese in his closing eucharist homily, saying it succeeded in restoring the so-called “bonds of affection” that hold Anglicans together, which were “severely challenged” in the last ACC meeting in Nottingham, England. Bishop Patterson is former primate of the Church of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which will be hosting the next ACC meeting in 2012.

At the opening service held at the National Arena and attended by about 8,000 people, delegates, ecumenical delegates and observers sang and swayed to traditional Anglican and Jamaican hymns, as well as pulsating reggae music made popular worldwide by Jamaica’s favourite son, Bob Marley. Everyone shook hands, hugged, and swayed to the beat of Mr. Marley’s ode to pacifism, One Love, during the offering of peace.As Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and bishops of the Church of the Province of the West Indies processed into the National Arena at 10 a.m., the organ played Tune Your Harps Your Voices Raise, from Samuel Felsted’s Oratorio, Jonah. As soon as Archbishop Williams entered the door to the arena, he was greeted by a drum roll and the sound of an abeng, described in the order of service as “a horn which was blown by the Maroons during their long and eventually victorious struggle with the British in the early days of colonialism.” A liturgical dance followed.

Delegates traveled by bus for the closing eucharist at St. Catherine’s Cathedral, reportedly the oldest Anglican cathedral outside England. Situated in Spanish Town, 16 km west of Kingston, it stands on the site of what used to be the Spanish Chapel of the Red Cross, destroyed by British soldiers under Oliver Cromwell, who drove out the Spaniards and colonized Jamaica in 1655. Built in the mid-17th century, it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1712 but rebuilt in 1714.

In “mission encounters” with local parishes, delegates had honest exchanges about mission with their local hosts.

The “tremendous hospitality” that they received, the concern for mission to young people, the noticeable absence of men in congregations, the vibrancy of worship, the ministry to the poor, strong lay leadership, and the lack of finances were common threads that delegates picked up from these ecnounters. There was also a “real thirst to know more about the Anglican Communion,” said Bishop Sue Moxley of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, representing the Anglican Church of Canada.

A particularly poignant encounter took place at an Anglican parish in the northeastern part of Portland, where the Bishop of Kenya, Samson Mwakitawa Mwaluda and other ACC delegates received an enthusiastic welcome from this area considered to have the “strongest retention of Anglicanism in Jamaica.” The Fellowship/Moore Town Cure is a church located in the highlands, and is home to the descendants of former runaway slaves known as Maroons.

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