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Caribbean Theology Conference reflects on significance of Covid-19 pandemic

From the CTCT Secretariat

The 21st Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) took place from November 8–12, 2021. Because of the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region, the conference was held virtually for the first time. Appropriately, the theme of the conference was: The COVID-19 Effect: Turning the Tide.

A total of 124 people registered, and 40–70 people were present online for each of the sessions across the five days of the conference. In addition to 14 substantive sessions, the online conference also offered time for joint prayer as well as for liming.

The 21st CTCT, besides being held fully online for the first time, broke ground in other ways too. For the first time, women constituted a significant majority of the presenters, as they were in charge of 16 of the 23 paper presentations (70 per cent). Also, the 21st CTCT was successful in attracting two new groups to the conference: creatives and younger theologians.

The conference included two creative sessions during which three poets and two painters presented from their bodies of work and connected these works to the conference theme.

A special youth session highlighted the theological or religiously inspired work of two ordained young adults and two lay young adults (see page 14, November 21 CN issue).

Almost all analytical presentations and creative performances focused on the central conference theme. One group of papers discussed how Scripture can help people of faith understand and deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the social isolation or disconnection that has been one of the pandemic’s defining features. Another set of papers and a roundtable discussion (the Idris Hamid Memorial Lecture) dealt with the pandemic’s effect on and implications for the Church and for ministry.

Similarly, a third set of papers examined the impact of the pandemic on parochial education (students, teachers, and schools). A fourth group of papers looked more broadly at what the Covid-19 pandemic has meant at the individual/personal level, for certain vulnerable groups such as the elderly, and for humankind at large.

A fifth set of presentations proposed the well-known, ancient faith practices of meditation and contemplation as ways to make sense of modern times.

As mentioned above, the conference also offered specific examples from the arts ― online poetry readings and displays of paintings ― as means for processing the emotions (such as uncertainty, anxiety, pain, and grief) associated with the current pandemic.

The conference included tributes to two important Trinbagonian contributors to the Church and the faith experience in the Caribbean. The CTCT presented its first Founders’ Award to retired Anglican priest Rev Dr Knolly Clarke, a pioneer of Caribbean theology and ecumenism.

The CTCT also paid posthumous tribute to Catholic percussionist Peter Telfer, a cultural icon and activist. One conference session was dedicated to three scholarly analyses of Telfer’s work and legacy, while another session offered conference participants the opportunity to share their personal memories and reflections of Telfer.

The Opening Address was delivered by the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. In the face of the several crises of the present day, she challenged all persons of faith in the Caribbean region to look beyond their own grouping’s narrow agenda and to empathise, engage, embrace, and cooperate across theological and other boundaries in the interest of health, sustainability, stability, peace, and justice.

The Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today believes that PM Mottley’s challenge provides crucial guidance for the region as it seeks to “turn the tide” on the current pandemic, while continuing to face exigent times.

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