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Young theologian looks forward to CTCT 2021     

Contributing writer Ottrisha Carter speaks with Guyanese Deacon Joel Thompson SJ about this year’s virtual Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today which runs from November 8 – 12.

Deacon Joel Thompson is a Jesuit brother from Guyana. He will be ordained to the priesthood in June 2022. He is currently pursuing a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Santa Clara University through the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkley, California. He is also a member of the Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) since 2019.

In 2018, at the Antilles Episcopal Conference Youth Assembly in Martinique, Rev Thompson met Archbishop Jason Gordon and expressed his passion for theology.

Archbishop Gordon suggested that it would be a good idea for him to meet a community of Caribbean theologians. His unfamiliarity with the term ‘Caribbean theology’ made him more curious and open to becoming a member of the organisation.

Membership in the CTCT provides an individual with the opportunity to experience spiritual growth and cultural development. Rev Thompson expressed that it has been a great experience to meet Caribbean theologians since most of his training have been carried out in England and the USA.

He enjoys listening to how the Holy Spirit is working among the Caribbean. By listening to people’s experiences, he can learn more about the realities of everyday life which have become a part of his identity.

He hopes to live and work in the Caribbean, so CTCT is helping him to learn more about being a Caribbean priest.

Rev Thompson described CTCT as a very relaxed and supportive environment. People can gather informally. Members are interested in learning from each other’s experiences and thus all contributions are welcomed.

By listening, learning, and enjoying each other’s company, the social and intellectual aspects are integrated in a non-judgemental space.

Reflecting on previous conferences, he shared that every presentation is unique and different but is one of his favourites. He enjoys hearing about the experiences of people from countries with which he is not familiar.

One presentation that really stood out to him was a Haitian theologian’s sharing on the humility and sacrifice of Haitian people who help tourists cross the rivers in Haiti.

In his opinion, this year’s CTCT theme The Covid Effect: Turning The Tide will provide the opportunity to look at the world with new eyes. He explained that tides go out and come in, but Covid was unexpected.

There is the opportunity now to both look back and listen now to what the Holy Spirit wants of the Church during this time.

Although the pandemic has brought disconnections, loneliness and fear, exploration can be done on how the Caribbean can flourish and grow as people of God in the Caribbean.

CTCT has used creative ways to accomplish its mission of fostering and celebrating pastorally grounded theological reflections during the pandemic. He mentioned the virtual sessions which were held. For example, when George Floyd was murdered last year, a virtual meeting was organised to highlight the fact that black lives mattered.

Another session was arranged during the Season of Creation, emphasising the need to care for creation in the context of climate change and other aspects.

He expressed that “it’s really amazing to see how CTCT has made use of technology during the pandemic”. CTCT was able to make the decision to continue its mission by shifting in-person activities to virtual activities.

Rev Thompson stated, “We can’t travel because of Covid so let’s do a virtual conference. Let’s continue to pray and theologise during the pandemic.”

He is grateful to CTCT’s founding members who had a very good imagination and vision for God’s people in the Caribbean. He thinks that people can show their appreciation by participating, theologising and sharing their experiences.

Rev Thompson’s advice to anyone who is thinking about becoming a member of the CTCT: “In anything you do, you need a community. If you love writing, learning about your faith … This is a place for you. Theology starts with your experiences of God. If you ever thought about God or your relationship with God, that is good enough. You’re a theologian. Don’t be afraid if you don’t have any formal training in theology.”