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Pastor speaks out against complacency as church marks 55 years

BY FALON FOLKES
Observer staff reporter
folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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A capacity congregation attended Saxthorpe Methodist Church's emerald anniversary service on May 6, and listened attentively as a visiting pastor encouraged them not to let the institution's 55 years of existence lead to complacency in their ministry.

“I'm here to remind you, Saxthorpe, that you are not there yet; that you have not yet arrived at your goals, so keep running,” Rev Narcisse Hamilton Phillips, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, New York, United States, told the congregation.

“There are some churches that are running, but they are running in the wrong direction. We have those who resist new ideas, who resist change, who keep looking back and saying that is how we used to do it. There is only one way to do it,” she said.

The visiting pastor also pointed out that a new approach is needed to recruit new people, because times have changed and things are now different. She spoke of Methodist churches in the US that are no longer thriving as they once did.

“I don't know what is happening in Jamaica, but... I can speak specifically about the United Methodist Church in America. I can tell you that our church is declining in effectiveness and in membership,” Rev Phillips said.

She told the congregation that complacency is responsible for the failure of many churches. According to the reverend, some churches dwindle spiritually as their numbers grow because they have lost sight of their church's goals. Another trend she identified is the small number of young people in the church, irrespective of how large the congregation may be.

She said she is aware of the temptations that are around them and charged them to also refrain from falling into this trap, but focus on setting a good example and foundation for future 'Saxthorpians' to whom they will be passing the baton.

“We have churches that are so huge, and they're filled with old people. Young families are unrepresented,” Phillips highlighted.

“They (the church) opened the doors and the people would come, and it became a place where people would gather with friends like the old time television programme, Cheers. Then the church became something that they did rather than something that they lived for,” she continued.

Host pastor and the first female president of the Methodist Jamaica District, Rev Christine Gooden Benguche agreed with Phillips' message, and said she believes that reaching 55 years old comes with more responsibility for the church.

“We cannot afford to be complacent, we cannot afford to be arrogant; we cannot sit back and think that we have done our duty. I think it's a time for reflection. I think it's a time for assessment and valuation of where we need to go and the vision in terms of where we need to take the church,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Throughout the 55 years, Saxthorpe has grown physically and spiritually, and the church's outreach programme has also grown. Saxthorpe Methodist Church has given back to Logwood Park, Grants Pen, and other surrounding communities in the Constant Spring area via feeding programmes, a care fund, and its street people ministry, among other initiatives.

The Saxthorpe Methodist Church anniversary celebrations are expected to continue for the duration of May, under the theme: 'Growing Stronger, Growing Deeper, Reaching Higher'.

Besides the commemorative church service which kicked off celebrations marking 55 years since the church officially opened its doors on May 16, 1963, the church also hosted an awards dinner on May 18 at which members were honoured for outstanding service.

According to the church, the anniversary celebration is an opportunity for members to reflect on the work of the church and how they can apply themselves in service to their community, workplace and the nation.

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