Overcoming the tendency to become isolated, insular and introverted
This message was delivered by the then Bishop Of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, Rt Revd, Alfred C. Reid, at the 14th Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica in May 2009.
“The experience of a lifetime”; “I never believed that I would live to meet, see, hear and interact with the Archbishop of Canterbury”; “Words cannot express”. These are samples of the way in which many of the faithful in Jamaica have talked about the impact of ACC XIV held in Jamaica in May 2009.
I, personally, feel privileged and honoured to have been the Bishop at that particular time. The Diocese, itself, has been greatly encouraged and inspired by the fellowship we have enjoyed with our brothers and sisters from around the globe. It is not automatic or easy for dioceses located in small and far-flung islands to experience the vastness of this unique worldwide community of faith known as Anglicanism. Even in this global village of instant electronic communication, it is easy to become isolated, insular and introverted. We have to work intentionally to overcome this tendency.
However, an opportunity to enjoy the fellowship and to see the cultural and even the spiritual diversity of our Church will contribute much to this process. We recognize that this tremendous diversity is a challenge that could lead to an intensification of divisions and alienation, but it could also lead to a wonderful mutual enrichment. Our own poet, Professor Mervyn Morris, in a hymn written specifically for the opening service, affirms the source of our diversity in God Himself. He wrote:
Lord of our diversity
unite us all we pray;
welcome us to fellowship
in your inclusive way
Teach us that opinions which
at first may seem quite strange
may reflect the Glory of
Your great creative range.
We are grateful that the ACC generously made time for the local church. Firstly, to open up their opening service into a Provincial/Diocesan service and, secondly, by taking time out to visit as many as forty of our congregations. All of these visits were successful. Links and lasting connections were made at the grassroots level. Who would have believed that the Archbishop of Wales, on his visit to St. David’s, Yallahs, would have bonded with the people to the extent of co-signing their petition to the Government asking for improvement to the roads leading to Llandewey.
Another highlight of these visits was the visit of Bishop Samson Mwaluda of Kenya to St. Paul’s, Moore Town, our chief Maroon Church. The Maroons are the original antislavery crusaders who refused to be enslaved and retreated to the most inaccessible hills of the country where they have maintained many features of their African heritage.
The missionaries who founded St. Paul’s, from as far back as 1804, discouraged any manifestation of African culture. However, on May 10, 2009, when the Maroons of Moore Town learnt that they were to be visited by a real African bishop, they were overjoyed. The Maroon Council, led by their Colonel, Mr. Wallace Sterling, came with traditional dancers and drummers and, of course, the Abeng. The Colonel led the team in a welcome dance, song and words spoken in Kromanti, based on the Twi language of West Africa.
Stories like these abound. We, ourselves, did not realise how connected we are with one another. Mention must be made of the impact of His Grace, The Archbishop of Canterbury, for his accessibility, his gracious demeanour, his wisdom and kindness. His great stature as a world leader was in no way diminished by his willingness to share himself with the humble people of his flock.
It is our prayer that ACC and, by extension, the Communion will have been as blessed as we have been by this coming together and that our present serious controversies may ultimately result in deeper understanding and wider fellowship.