Remarks By Prime Minister Perry Christie
At The 201st Annual Session Of The Bahamas Turks And Caicos Islands Conference Of The Methodist Church
It is a pleasure to be here this morning to bring greetings and to congratulate The Bahamas Turks and Caicos Islands Conference of the Methodist Church as you celebrate your 201st Annual Session.
Many of you may not know that my mother was a Methodist and that I was christened at Wesley Methodist Church by the Rev. William Makepeace.
Long before that my grandfather was a lay minister. He lived in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera and I am advised that on Sundays he would drive in his truck with some of his younger children to Hatchet Bay where he would assist with the Hatchet Bay Methodist church service. So you will understand when I say I’m familiar with the traditions and service of the Methodist Church.
In particular, I have taken note of the growth of The Bahamas Turks and Caicos Islands Conference since 1997 and I admire the many Creole Ministries that you have established, the soup kitchens that you continue to operate and the thrift shop that provide for many underprivileged people.
Your theme “Renewing Our Church Community” is one that addresses something that is so important for The Bahamas right now. We need a return to the strong church communities that many of us grew up in.
Those church communities were extensions of our immediate families. They provided guidance for those who were lost; shelter for those who needed homes; actual and spiritual sustenance for those who needed to be fed. And today, we still have so many in The Bahamas who need these things and they desperately need a loving community to help sustain them.
Crime has become such a problem in this country. Many people, young and old, are angry, lonely, depressed. Too many of them turn to drugs, crime and self-harm to relieve whatever problem they may be facing.
I believe, that with a renewal of church communities, we can tackle this problem and provide some comfort, some answers and some relief. Revelation 21 verse 4 says that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes”. On earth the church is here to do that for the poor, to wipe away their tears, to provide comfort.
Remember, your church community is not just the congregation gathered here today and every Sunday. Outside these walls, up and down Malcolm Road is also your church community. There are people right out there who need an invitation to come in. They need your church leaders and your congregation to go out to them and become a part of their lives. Renewing the church community is essential and it must become an integral part of the wider community.
Methodists have a tradition of being missionaries and, across the world, the Methodist Church is known for its missionary work. I challenge you today, to become known across The Bahamas for your missionary work. Familiarise yourself with the plight and the condition of the poor.
Today, too many of our churches are isolated from the communities that need them most. People outside this door must become familiar with the names and faces of the church leaders? I would recommend that church leaders and members take the time to walk among the people? To talk with the people?
There is a hymn called In The Garden and the words in the refrain says:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
Truly this is what the church must embody; the role of a loving father.
Jesus’ ministry is marked by the fact that he was vastly different from the rabbis of his day. He went among the people. He touched the lame, the leprous, and the dead. He fed the whole man. When they needed food he multiplied five loaves and two fishes. When they needed the word or guidance, he preached or shared a parable. He did not isolate himself from those that needed his help, his wisdom and his love. To work miracles you must go where miracles are needed.
And for those who don’t believe, miracles are still happening today. There is a miracle in each and everyone of us waiting, just waiting to come to light. We just need to help it along and we can do that through helping to renew those in our communities that need our service.
When you see a man who has turned his life around, gotten off drugs, got a job, stopped abusing those around him – you are seeing a miracle! These changes are only possible with the help of those who believe in God.
Our renewal must be complete. There must be a renewal of our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. A renewal of the whole man.
This year The Bahamas celebrates 40 years of Independence. It is a milestone that we should all be proud of. In that 40 years we have done a lot to advance our country and create a people who are proud to be Bahamian and who can celebrate the rights and freedoms that our forebears worked so hard to gain for us. But there is still work to be done. We need to make the next 40 years even better, and the church needs to be a significant part of this.
This is also a time of reflection. A time to examine our history, to look at the choices that brought us this far and then re-evaluate to determine what will take us even farther, and farther in God’s grace.
Our 40th Anniversary of Independence is a call to action. People often misquote Mahatma Gandhi saying “be the change you want to see in the world” and this is a good approximation of what he really said, which was “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do,”
The call to action is there. Don’t wait for others, go out and work your miracle. If we want more kindness and love in our community, we must be kind and we must love others. If we want to end poverty, we must change our attitude towards the poor. We must embrace them and help them to alleviate their suffering.
So while we celebrate, we look to a renaissance of our old time Bahamian values, a renewal of ourselves, our Christian commitment to be involved in the lives of those who truly need Christ’s love and forgiveness; we look to a renewal of our church community.
I encourage the church to find partners in your outside community and in Urban Renewal. Urban Renewal has been partnering with churches across The Bahamas to do this very thing, renew and rebuild communities.
This past week, as you held your conference, I believe that there was a spirit of rejuvenation that led you to make many of these same resolutions. And I believe that The Bahamas Turks and Caicos Islands Conference will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure that this year, you will all carry this theme in your hearts and, together with other churches, will work to renew church communities across the country.
Caption: Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes and Lady Foulkes are pictured in the front row of the Wesley Methodist Church, Malcolm Allotment, for the 201st Annual Session of the Bahamas Turks and Caicos Islands Conference of the Methodist Church. Also pictured in second row from right. Prime Minister Perry Christie, Leader of the Opposition Hubert Minnis and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)