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July 20, 2023
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July 20, 2023

Youth and Caribbean theology

By Stephanie Baldeosingh

The Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) 2023 took place in Grenada June 26 –30. A youth panel was held at the Kirani James Stadium, St Georges on June 28. During this segment, four panellists, all being active youth leaders in our respective churches, shared insight on the matters affecting today’s generation.

The first panellist was Mark Howell-Paul, a 23-year-old musician from the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando, Trinidad. He challenged participants to think on how the Church can interact with her young people through creativity. He implored that we must pour ourselves into young people, while allowing them to actively participate creatively in church affairs, and spending time with them to understand their needs.

He pointed out that God, in the Genesis Creation story, did all these things, by creating Adam from the dust with His Spirit, then allowing him to participate in Creation by naming created things, while also understanding and granting his need for a suitable partner.

Investing in the creativity of our youth will help them to grow both spiritually and in their talents. Mark also performed one of his original songs, ‘Guide Me,’ which spoke to the need of God’s guidance as a youth.

The second panellist was Dominique Jeremiah, a 22-year-old medical student at St George’s University, and from the parishes of St Andrew the Apostle, Grenville, and the Blessed Sacrament, St Luke’s Community, Grenada.

Dominique challenged  attendees to put on new lenses of perception for the youth of our churches, communities, and wider societies. She conveyed that today’s youths have been socialised into a technological, materialistic world – therefore facing confusion in their understanding of themselves and God, personal development, technologies, and lifestyles.

Today’s generation is growing up in a society where there are more broken families, inactive youth ministries, and problematic school communities, than healthy, stable environments. Therefore, spiritual formation cannot be taught without human formation, but each individual youth requires a different formative experience.

The third panellist was Atalia Walcott, a 19-year-old college graduate in Arts and Humanities, from the parish of St Andrew the Apostle, Mt St Ervans, Grenada. She presented on ‘The Issue of Identity Crisis among Caribbean Youths’, in questioning and reassessing who they are, both in general life and in church. Walcott commented that without a powerful sense of identity, it is difficult for youths to desire a place of activity in  churches. She highlighted that both the pandemics of Covid-19 and social media have psychologically impacted youths, however, the Church is seemingly inflexible regarding the changes and challenges that youth experience.

However, Walcott underscored intervention of the Church in young people’s lives is needed for its own preservation and longevity, since the youths are both the present and the future of the Church.

Lastly, Stephanie Baldeosingh, a 21-year-old BA Theology student of the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Trinidad, and from the Aramalaya Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago, presented on ‘A Youth Perspective on Socio-Economic Issues in Poverty and Access to Education’.

Using the Covid-19 infection rate and death-toll statistics, Baldeosingh posed a hypothetical story about a Caribbean boy who lost his father due to Covid, consequently fell into poverty, and left school permanently to support his family financially.

She stated there is no doubt that as the “Covid floods” recede from the earth, there can be found many such instances of socio-economic suffering.

Baldeosingh commented, “We are called to be like Noah in Genesis and rebuild the earth, but it is important for the church to investigate the losses and traumas experienced, and provide practical help, before we can meaningfully spread the Gospel message. This is the basis of Liberation Theology, which focuses on the conditions of the people whom we want to evangelise.”

Interestingly, throughout all the presentations, common themes emerged, even without any prior collaboration amongst the panellists. The common consensus was that youths need guidance to find themselves in Christ.

All panellists stressed the importance of the Church meeting youths at their points of need, listening to their concerns, and adapting to adequately journey with them for their human and spiritual formation.

The panellists all highlighted ways in which the Church can move forward in a post-pandemic context, to ensure that youths are not left behind. They also collectively agreed that continued inaction or not enough action from the Church in youths’ lives, will cause both youths and the Church to suffer.

This information, Baldeosingh underscored, is crucial to both the development of the churches, and to CTCT, “as we continue to theologise our way into the future.” Being able to receive the perspective of the present generation, she said, allows the Church to press forward in the hope of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, while still being grounded in reality.