Regional leaders reflected on how Caribbean churches are working across geopolitical and denominational lines to address COVID-19 and natural disasters at all levels.
The situation in the Caribbean is unique. It is a highly indebted region, largely because it is the most travel- and trade-dependent region in the world, with almost half of the gross domestic product coming directly or indirectly from tourism. The Caribbean is also on the cusp of the climate crisis.
Prof. Jessica Byron, director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus and a member of the WCC Commission of Churches on International Affairs, reflected that Caribbean churches, historically and in the present, are very conscious of their regional and local social mission. “Our past compels us to engage in emancipatory and empowerment initiatives,” she said.
In addition, she added: “Our churches have an acknowledged role in disaster preparedness and response and in social protection more generally."
Bishop Everald Galbraith, connectional president for the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, traced some of the common challenges across the wide region.
“I will share with you some of things we have done as a church to help to cope and to address the situation,” he said. "The whole issue of celebrating the Lord’s Supper was a major concern when the pandemic got into full swing. We prepared a document outlining the steps to be followed to be able to celebrate the sacrament online or virtually—and that has gone very well.”
Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary offered condolences for those who have lost loved ones.
“Pastors, along with other essential services personnel, are under tremendous strain requiring support and accompaniment,” said Phiri. “But this pandemic has hastened the application of social media technology, especially in delivering sermons, thus keeping the church's mission alive under challenging circumstances.”
She commended the pastors and church workers who have sharpened their technological skills.
“In all regions, churches and their ministries have shown resilience as they have continued providing their ministerial and diaconal services amid the pandemic,” she said. “Families have had more time together at home, and many reports indicate that family prayers and fellowship have become more defined.”