Standing in Solidarity: “Rooted! Resilient! Responding in H.O.P.E.”
Rachel Pellett serves with the United Church in Jamaica and Cayman Islands.
“God has a mission of peace; a mission of healing and reconciliation. The people of God; the church; every Christian has a responsibility in this mission enterprise of peace and peace-building.” Rt. Rev. Gary Harriot, A Call for Peace
Much has been happening in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and the global community – the pandemic and its impacts, a social and moral outcry for advancing racial justice for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities, an increase in devastating climate catastrophes, and more. In response, the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) has decided to focus on the 2021 theme, “Rooted! Resilient! Responding in H.O.P.E.” H.O.P.E. is an acronym for Health, Opportunity, Peace, and Evangelism. In the third quarter – July through to the end of September – the UCJCI is focused on peace and peace-building.
Much like the histories and present realities of both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the UCJCI has been and continues to be passionately, intentionally, and boldly engaged in civil, social, economic, and political justice movements. A value statement of the UCJCI reads as such:
The United Church represents a people called by God, to love and worship God the Creator, Jesus the Savior, and the Holy Spirit the Comforter; to make a difference in people’s lives by actively loving and serving those around us; to bring the good news of the Gospel to all people; to nurture each other in faith; to pursue God’s justice and peace in all areas of life, so that ‘God’s kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.
In one of the first liturgies during the quarter focused on peace, individuals, families, and congregations across the UCJCI read the conviction that “A messenger of Peace doesn’t just preach for the end of physical wars, but speaks against abuse, dishonesty, and anything that denies human rights and dignity, or goes against God’s commandments (to love).”
Together, congregations across the church have been engaged in finding ways to become Peace Ambassadors. Professor and UCJCI clergy Rev. Dr. Roderick Hewitt, for example, invited us to think deeply about the rationale for and actionable steps to be taken toward advocating for equal rights and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. The Rt. Rev. Gary Harriot expanded on this theme of actively working towards equal rights and justice for all God’s image-bearers, sharing the conviction that “God has a mission of peace; a mission of healing and reconciliation. The people of God, the church, every Christian has a responsibility in this mission enterprise of peace and peace-building.” Later adding, “Where peace is lacking, God has a vested interest, and so must God’s servants. (Because) where justice is absent, peace is almost impossible.”
Whether we find ourselves in the United States, Canada, Jamaica, the Caymans, or anywhere else in creation, humans have devised all sorts of hierarchies and systems of stratification. All things – inanimate and animate – in God’s creation, including people, have been grouped, divisively. As the Rt. Rev. Gary Harriot puts it, this process of “setting people apart from each other on the basis of all kinds of systems of segregation and disharmony – gender, religion, race, color, politics, economics, education, you name it – (means that) we have set God’s beautiful creation against itself, causing tension, hostility, violence, abuse, and victims… (all) because others failed to see God’s image in us all.”
Taking a hard and heavy look at the ways intersecting systems of power and oppression are at work within society – locally and abroad – and this impact on the lived experiences of all God’s people, the Rt. Rev. Gary Harriot instigated the UCJCI’s ongoing and very active participation in “Thursdays in Black.” This is an international campaign to raise awareness about the prevalence and impacts of gender-based and domestic violence, and acts as a movement to encourage men, women, seniors, adults, and children to work for a world without rape and violence. Perhaps your congregation(s), as members of the World Council of Churches like the UCJCI, have been participating in “Thursdays in Black.”
In addition to organizing and mobilizing clergy and congregations, resources to share in services and across social media platforms have been developed and launched. For example, the UCJCI’s Women’s Fellowship video “Against Gender Violence,” as well as the “Thursdays in Black against Violence and Rape” video which demonstrates support from UCJCI’s male constituency. Additionally, Rev. Nicole Ashwood was employed as Program Executive of Just Communities of Women and Men to add valuable traction to the education and action sought for this movement.
In addition, many of us have started to wear black on Thursdays during our peace education camps this summer at Pringle Home for Children, too. Pringle Home for Children is a place of hope, healing, and care for girls ages 6-18. Girls who come to live with us at Pringle Home do so in light of having been removed from their family homes and communities as a result of witnessing and/or personally experiencing abuse and/or neglect. For this reason, the “Thursdays in Black” campaign doesn’t just hit us close to home, but it is becoming part of the girls’ experience of healing. It’s helping them reclaim their stories as survivors, revive hope, and be empowered to speak up against rape and violence for all girls and women in Jamaica, the Caymans, the Caribbean, and the world. For girls at Pringle Home for Children, this movement for equal rights and justice – that is, for a future free from the traumas that have devastated their lives – matters deeply, and the girls proudly participate alongside siblings who also dare to imagine a world without gender-based violence.
For all people in all places, the crises of our times are beckoning us to take a stand yet again. Now, as much as ever, the call to bring about a just and peaceful world must be answered. As UCJCI’s Rt. Rev. Gary Harriot put it,
Just like the Prophet Amos in Chapter 5 beckons for justice, it is of utmost importance that we re-imagine what justice would look like in our society. If we want peaceful societies, we must pay attention to justice issues in our midst; we must pay attention to the weak and vulnerable; those who are at risk; those who are less likely to be considered or remembered.
This is the holy work that we are all called to. For the good work you are doing and for your continued partnership and solidarity with the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands through Global Ministries, thank you. God be with you. Amen!
Rachel Pellett serves with the United Church in Jamaica and Cayman Islands. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.