By Nicole Poyer
Like that first conch shell in Peter Telfer’s hymn, ‘A Call to Praise’, the CTCT’s call for papers was a call to reflect, a call to come together, a call to prepare.
This Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today drew people from various denominations, various nations, and various walks of life with one common goal to reflect together on how they felt God was directing the Church in this post-pandemic landscape.
To properly facilitate such a diverse group, it was necessary to create, among other things, prayer spaces that allowed room for ecumenical expression.
The group was accommodated by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother at St Martin’s Retreat Centre in Grenada.
Every morning, after breakfast, morning prayer was held in the chapel. This was led by a different participant each day. We heard from persons like Rev Dr Oral Thomas, the Methodist President of the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica; Fr Martin Sirju, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, led us another morning. Stephanie Baldeosingh of the Presbyterian Church and Mark Howell-Paul of the RC Church led us in praise and worship, sharing their gift of music and song.
In this way, participants had an opportunity to share their own faith as well as learn about the faith of others. Participants showed a great openness in entering into common prayer even when led in a tradition different from their own. There were numerous nooks and crannies around the grounds that invited one to spend time in silent contemplation as well. The beauty of the grounds invited participants to sit with each other and connect with the Divine.
Ecumenism comes from the Greek word oikumene, which speaks of “the whole inhabited earth” – everyone is welcome, everyone is included. Reflections were presented through formal papers, music, poetry, drama, and craft.
The presentations themselves were rich in their varied perspectives. Contributions were made by persons of the Spiritual Baptist faith, the Methodist faith, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics.
Each of these presentations provided a perspective that enriched the whole, reminding us that our needs, as humans created in the image and likeness of God, were similar but also different; these needs cannot be properly met if we view them with one narrow lens.
In every way, even the form of presentations, was ecumenical in nature; diverse as they were but all pointing to the One God.
Through this Conference, I believe that Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 came alive: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The connections made by participants during the Conference continue to bear fruit. Participants of the youth panel have kept in touch with each other and were able to meet when the Grenadian pilgrims arrived at the World Youth Day Village held in Couva on July 22. In addition, they have been promoting each other’s work on social media.
In our fractured world, the ability of such a group to come together, pray together, work together and support each other, is not only miraculous but necessary. It is only by coming together to discern, to reflect and to work that we can truly be Christian and witness to God’s deep and abiding love continuously at work in the world.