The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) held its 43rd Synod from April 23-30, 2023, in the Cayman Islands. Rooted, Resilient: Reignited by the Spirit, the theme that guided the Synod, will also guide the denomination during the 2023-2025 Synodical period. The UCJCI is reviving the process of discerning the call to be an Emerging Church in the midst of the socio-economic and cultural milieu which makes being a church in two nations an interesting reality.
Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, although only forty-seven minutes in flight apart, each reflect different dynamics in the lived experience, political arrangements, gross domestic product, health care, education opportunities, and in the occurrence of crime and violence, inter alia. As such, the UCJCI must emerge in both nations in ways that are meaningful whilst maintaining the polity and ethos that are the common markers for us as one denomination.
The UCJCI has developed, since the 42nd Synod in 2021, an approach to ministry and mission which continues to pave the way for the deepening of our Reformed identity as an Emerging Church within the context of the diversity of the two-nation reality. This is evidenced in the Worship, Witness, and Work schema and in the emphasis placed on Evangelism which will form the basis of how the denomination will live out its calling and ministry in both nations.
There is the recognition that worship is central to the Christian experience and that for many people the time spent in worship is critical to faith understanding, commitment, dedication, and service. Worship must be life-giving, inspirational, creative and focused on the Lord and giver of life. Self-centered worship only serves to transform the chancel into a performance platform where the ‘performers’ seek to gratify their own sensibilities and such actions digress greatly from the call to worship in spirit and truth. Worship that is Rooted and Resilient: Reignited by the Spirit, is Cristo-centric and pneuma-centric, and worshippers seek to engage with God in powerful ways. The worship experience when ignited by the Spirit develops and nurtures faith which informs and transforms life.
The call to be lively witnesses for a time such as this weighs heavily on the UCJCI. In this season, particular emphasis is placed on Discipleship, Stewardship, and Mission, especially for children, youth, and men. Advocacy through outreach, food security, education, collaboration, and peace initiatives as well as moral issues including abortion and human sexuality are also on the agenda for discernment and discussion. Remaining faithful yet meeting the demands of the now is the challenge for the UCJCI in its quest as an Emerging Church. The UCJCI must, with reverence, compassion, and courage arrive at the core of what it means to be the church in order to remain relevant and certain in an uncertain world.
The UCJCI recognizes the reality that the post-Covid-19 church requires a refreshed leadership, credible theology that meets the needs of people, and resources that are available to enable meaningful engagement. The denomination is therefore committed to maximizing training opportunities, using technology to increase ministry efficiency, recruiting persons for ministry, identifying and nurturing potential leaders, vocational re-tooling, assessing congregational life, and realigning Charges for efficient and effective ministry. One critical undertaking will be a review of the gender issues in ordained ministry, even as the UCJCI celebrates fifty years since the ordination of the first female minister, Rev. Dr. Adlyn White in June 1973.
The call to faith and the experience of the believer is of utmost importance to the UCJCI. Hence, evangelism remains core to who we are as a denomination. Beyond the households, and those in the immediate environment, our evangelism must impact the margins of both societies. The Cayman Islands have become attractive to many who proclaim atheism and agnosticism and the need to present the Gospel is great. Jamaica’s level of crime and violence speaks to an unfortunately growing cohort that diminishes the value of human life and dignity and hence there is a failure to uphold the concept of Imago Dei in the fellow human being. Therefore in both contexts, evangelism is crucial.
The UCJCI, as it pursues the Synodical Theme, Rooted, Resilient: Reignited by the Spirit, recognizes the enormity of the call and reality to not only be an interpretive church in two nations but to be a church revealing Christ to the world. We strive to be a lived reality of what it means to be a united church proclaiming the Gospel to people with varying needs but all seeking the same Saviour. We will remain resolute in our faithfulness to proclaim Christ to this generation and to allow the Spirit to be our guide and stay.
—Rev. Dr. Yvette Noble-Bloomfield
Deputy General Secretary, UCJCI