Despite the phenomenal growth of many new churches, mostly of the Pentecostal faith, in the last 25 years, and the subsequent loss of members to these newcomers which offer a more hyped up form of worship, particularly appealing to young people, the Anglican Church remains the single largest Christian denomination in Barbados.
Born out of the Church of England, there has been a permanent Anglican presence on the island since the first English settlers arrived in 1625. It became the official church, meaning that priests were paid from the public purse and performed certain public duties. This status, however, came to an end with disestablishment almost 50 years ago. Hence, the Anglican Church we have today is fully independent of Government.
In its long association with Barbados, the Anglican Church has walked with Barbadians every step of our near 400-year-old journey from colonial status to Independence. It has shared in good times and also bad times. It has wielded considerable power and influence, but has concomitantly had to shoulder a heavy responsibility which other churches have not carried.
For example, it is the duty of Anglican priests assigned to each ecclesiastical parish to assume full responsibility for the “cure of souls” in the designated district. This equally applies to Anglicans and non-Anglicans, especially if they have no spiritual home of their own.
If such persons find themselves in need of spiritual support, it is the priest’s responsibility to provide such. Seen from this perspective, the Anglican Church practises an inclusive ministry.
The substantial contribution of the Anglican Church to educating Barbadians, especially at the primary and tertiary levels, is well documented. There was a time, not so long ago, when almost every primary school carried the name of the nearby church as a sign of its ownership.
Codrington College, which has trained Anglican priests for over 200 years, was the Caribbean’s first tertiary institution established right here in Barbados.
Before the University of the West Indies (UWI) was established, Codrington College, which had a long-standing affiliation with the University of Durham, was the place where local teachers, senior public servants and others pursued first degrees as external students in classics, history and other subjects. Formal training for Caribbean media practitioners also debuted at Codrington College.
The 21st century world in which we live is one of constant change that presents new challenges and opportunities for organizations and the work they do.
The church is not exempt. Change, if not effectively managed, can sometimes call into question the continued relevance of an organization. The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Barbados is proactively responding to this changing environment with the launch this Sunday of its first-ever strategic plan.
Covering the period 2016 to 2019, the plan will be launched by Anglican Bishop of Barbados and Archbishop of the West Indies The Most Rev. Dr John Holder at the annual Diocesan Service at The Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex. At a time when many key institutions are grappling with a crisis of confidence resulting from an increasingly demanding public that is subjecting their performance to greater scrutiny, it is refreshing to see the Anglican Church rising to the challenge.
The aim of the strategic plan is to launch a process intended to refocus, renew, reinvigorate and reposition the church for more effective ministry in Barbados n the 21st century environment. Barbadians therefore can look forward to seeing a more dynamic, visible and responsive Anglican Church in the years ahead.
Just over a year ago, the local Roman Catholic Church embarked on a similar journey of renewal after holding its first-ever Synod which adopted a five-year strategic plan aimed at building more effective church for ministry. It is heartening to see two of the island’s leading traditional churches reforming to become better.
This comes against the backdrop of what some consider to be a deepening moral and spiritual crisis in the land and the need for the church to exercise more effective leadership in responding to these challenges. The crisis, no doubt, stems from the fact that the contemporary world has become so obsessed with materialism that the vital spiritual dimension of life has been overshadowed.
Materialism, however, does not bring true and lasting happiness for people. Spiritual nourishment is necessary. Jesus Christ reminds us of this in Matthew 4:4 when he said: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
By renewing itself, the church is seeking to position itself to more effectively spearhead the moral and spiritual revival of the nation which many Barbadians say is badly needed.
As it embarks on this important exercise, the Anglican Church has our best wishes.