Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Understanding the role of the church

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THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is neither the largest religious denomination nor the most influential in Barbados. But it is a pillar among the established churches, has a long and proud history on the island, and commands a strong and respectable voice.

So when the Bishop of Bridgetown Jason Gordon speaks, not just the faithful listen, but the wider community will take note. Such was the case with his recent sentiments that Roman Catholics will reach out even more to help Barbadians hit by the prevailing economic and social difficulties. He clearly understands the important role the entire church, not just Catholics, must undertake in an increasingly secular society.

This is good news. It is generally known and appreciated that the Roman Catholic Church on this island has been reaching out beyond its flock for a long time, as have many other denominations, best exemplified by the Salvation Army. Thankfully, all the churches, whether of the Barbados Christian Council or the Barbados Evangelical Association, understand their mission is to serve.

Their efforts could be more meaningful if they were to adopt an ecumenical approach to outreach programmes. It cannot be about one pastor, or even one faith, but primarily the desire to show compassion with those who seek help.

In many communities across Barbados, people are in need and it cannot be left only to the Government to meet all their demands. While the goodwill of individuals and the efforts of non-governmental organisations must be lauded and continuously encouraged, it is a united church that can make a huge difference. The churches have been around for a long time and have the talent within their congregations to undertake almost any mission.

In our increasingly politically polarised society, there must be an institution to which people can turn for solutions beyond the partisan political, especially since neither politicians nor technocrats have all the answers. This therefore gives credence to the suggestion from Bishop Gordon for a national conversation to come up with viable solutions to the myriad of problems facing the island. The idea requires action.

Church leaders must shun any dogma which could derail the bishop’s proposal. This is not the time to focus on nationality or indeed who is best to promote the message. It is about reaching out and helping to change lives for the better. It is to show that the church is still relevant and that it has a leading role to play in this community.

That role must go beyond simply satisfying spiritual needs but fulfilling the church’s social responsibility mission. This is a golden opportunity for all churches to support an excellent proposal. Now is the time.

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