Lectionary Selection: Genesis 1:1-2, 4a
Prayers for Jamaica:
Creator God, Light and Love, we acknowledge your goodness – as simply part of the essence of your very being, and the goodness of your inexhaustible loving-kindness towards us, your creation, your children, your beloved. Lord of Light and Love, we return love to you. Spirit, we thank you for your abiding companionship. Hover over us. We reach back out to you for comfort and encouragement. Lead us and guide us. We acknowledge your presence in all places, with all people, in all things, and ask for wisdom. We lift up those who are in a process of discernment, those planning and organizing for the “re-opening” of churches, and congregations that have already started to physically meet together again, in the eeriness of COVID-19. Today, we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in this work in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. As pastors, lay leaders, elders, volunteers, etc., serving you through the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI), and staff at the UCJCI head office together with them, respond to put into place all of the government’s advisement for precautions to assemble in-person safely, we ask for your provision: in addition to wisdom, for courage where needed and caution as needed; for the excitement that brings a breath of new life for those who have grown weary, and for sobered sensitivity and compassion for those who will greet and support others still grieving; for the financial and material resources to make safety for all possible; for Your Spirit that transforms a worship service into a Holy encounter with you. Empower your people, oh God our Creator, Lord of Love and inextinguishable Light in any darkness. You know exactly what is needed, so our prayer is simple and short. Creator God, Comforter and Christ, even as you are all that we need, would you be ever-present in a powerful and palpable way for our siblings in Jamaica and Cayman, now (as many make plans and gather together again) and always. And for those yet unable – for whom the risk of COVID-19 is still too great – we ask that you would make them ever-present on our hearts and minds, so that we can be part of your plan to provide emotionally, physically, and spiritually to them as well. One with you, may we be in tune with your Spirit to partner with you in care for all of creation, to be Light and Love to our siblings in Christ by your goodness and strength. Amen.
Mission Stewardship Moment from Jamaica:
As of three weeks ago, churches in Jamaica were allowed to reassemble in person provided a number of safety measures were put into place (such as social distancing assurances of 6 feet apart and one person per 40 square feet, multiple services in which no person including clergy is present in multiple services, sanitization protocols, masks, and temperature checks before entering the sanctuary, abstinence from choir singing and use of air conditioning systems, and except for worship continued observance of the greeting and meeting no-gathering directives in any part of the church property, inside or outside e.g. on the church yard). This permission was first permitted by the federal government as part of a two-week trial, during which a close eye remained on how this and a few other re-openings might impact community spread of the COVID-19 virus which hit the island on March 10, 2020.
The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) has been (pro)active in its response throughout the nation’s experience of coping with the pandemic. It seems not a day has been missed in their organized efforts to assist their communities of faith, clergy, members, attendees, and the neighborhoods therein. So far, some of the supports have included the distribution of food and care packages, ongoing pastoral care, deliberate attention to finding safe ways to serve and support those most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, and the establishment of online counseling and crisis supports with trained counselors for individuals in need of mental health and crisis care. From the safety of each person’s home, the body has also been unified weekly in fasting and prayer from noon to 1 pm every Wednesday; in addition to which, UCJCI has been offering vital daily communication to help remind everyone that, while physically apart, we’re still all in this together. On the latter note in particular, very early on UCJCI Synod staff quickly systematized various channels to resource and keep all its congregations’ clergy, boards, members and attendees up to date with accurate daily news, reliable information for maintaining health and safety, and ways to stay engaged while apart. Daily, UCJCI distributes snippets of words of encouragement and devotions, liturgy and other worship resources for a range of all age and stage groups (not forgetting children and youth programming), as well as online links to and radio re-broadcasting of recorded worship services, public forums and webinars to explore the impacts of and strategies to meet the needs coming out of COVID-19, etc. Social media platform training for engaging in ministry online was quickly organized and offered early on too.
Now that churches are authorized to assemble in person again, UCJCI’s COVID-19 Response Team has once again stepped up to resource the community with the information and materials so that the congregations that choose to physically meet together again remain safe during these unprecedented times (UCJCI has been and continues to be faithful in promoting and upholding the government guidelines for infection prevention protocols). While boards take the needed time for discernment, planning and preparations for in-person services and other congregations elect to maintain online worship for the time being, UCJCI has faithfully maintained an all "hands on deck" attitude in order to support the body as and when needed. Making all efforts possible to abide with one another, the church’s response has been one of acting with great love in very difficult and challenging times. Please join our sisters and brothers in both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in prayer as they enter a new season in not only coping with COVID-19 but trying to serve their communities in a variety of new and traditional ways. Please also join in prayer for provisions to continue this faithful work: with reduced income now, the church remains committed to serving their communities while still supporting its auxiliary ministries (like Pringle Home for Children and Mount Olivet Boy’s home, as just two examples), etc. UCJCI has been reducing its internal expenditures as much as possible in order to finance ongoing and, in some cases, expanded COVID-19 ministry efforts. May God continue to provide for all their ministry needs, and enable God’s church here in Jamaica and Cayman to be much-needed Love and Light, co-workers in God’s ministry, now and always.
Prayer and Mission Moment by Rachel Pellet
Mission Partners in Jamaica:
More information on Jamaica: https://www.globalministries.org/jamaica
Global Ministries Mission Co-worker in Jamaica:
Rachel Pellett serves with the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.