October 2021 EWC e-letter content

Reimagining Sunday School in the Leeward Islands

Imagine offering Sunday School to all ages across a landscape of churches where four languages are spoken, but only English resources are used. That had been the case in the Leeward Islands District of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), which are located on seventeen islands in the Caribbean as well as a circuit, the Holland Circuit, located in The Netherlands.

The district includes fifteen circuits and one mission where Papiamentu, French, Dutch, and English are spoken. If you were to view the opening worship of the 3rd Triennial District Conference of the Leeward Islands on January 11, 2021, you would hear all of these languages spoken. 

Funds drawn from the Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean Permanent Fund helped change the story. A grant of $8,800.00 made to the Leeward Islands District reimagines how Sunday School is offered. The grant will help reconfigure how Sunday School is taught by using new teaching strategies for children, youth, and adults. Moreover, the materials used for Sunday School will now be written in Dutch and French, as well as English. According to Damian Hughes, a minister of the MCCA living in Curaçao, where Papiamentu is spoken, those who speak Papiamentu also understand Dutch. Thus, the three-language curriculum will reach everyone in the district. There will no longer be a need for non-English speaking circuits to use curriculum from non-Methodist sources. The changes will impact more than 1,200 students across the district. 

The district will bring together a group of curriculum writers to develop the materials needed. The effort is coordinated by the District Christian Education Department headed by Rev. Helen Mallalieu-Maurose who lives in St. Thomas. Five one-day webinars via Zoom will train a minimum of 10 participants from each circuit, which will yield 160 newly trained teachers. Expected outcomes of this reimagined and reconfigured District Sunday School include the publishing of resources that are contextually appropriate for the islands and that will be available in the three aforementioned languages. They expect that 80% of Sunday School teachers in the district will be trained. They also expect that 60% of students will successfully pass exams based on the new curriculum. They will also invest in digital platforms for the delivery of resources. The key outcome of this effort will be the personal and faith growth of children and youth.  

What is the MCCA?

The Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) was formed in 1967 when it became independent of its mother church, The British Methodist Church. Nathaniel Gilbert, a planter, lawyer and politician in Antigua travelled to England to hear John Wesley and was converted from Anglicanism in 1758. They returned to Antigua in 1759 and in 1760 he began preaching to his family, slaves, and neighbors. Local believers and missionaries followed establishing churches in most of the British colonies on Caribbean islands as well as the Gulf of Mexico coast in Central America. Today the MCCA includes eight districts, each led by a Bishop: Bahamas/Turks and Caicos Islands, Belize/Honduras, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, South Caribbean District, and the Panama/Costa Rica District. Since May 2018, Bishop Everald Galbraith has served as the Connexional President of the MCCA. The MCCA includes 700 congregations with more than 62,000 members.

Because of its proximity to the United States, the MCCA became a close mission partner with The United Methodist Church. Appeals to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helped respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti on August 14 of this year, but Haiti has received disaster relief from UMCOR, where it can work with partners such as the Haiti District of the MCCA.

Women use church-owned land on St. Kitts to address food security

Since the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis experienced a sharp rise in the cost of fuel, which led to increases in the cost of imported food. St. Paul’s Methodist Church on the island of St. Kitts has access to 20 acres of arable land. The women of the Methodist Church have come up with a plan to address food insecurity in the rural area of the island by cultivating roots, tubers, fruits, and vegetables on that land. Thanks to a grant drawn from Encounter with Christ’s Permanent Fund, the women’s plan addresses food insecurity and offers opportunities to women and young entrepreneurs for employment. Leveraging the $10,000 grant, they plan to sell harvested food to hotels, restaurants, and individuals to help sustain an ongoing ministry to address food and nutrition security. Offering local produce decreases the dependence on imported foods. Profits from the sale of food will be channeled into social development programs of the congregation and to further develop the farm.

The initiative for this project dates back to when Rev. Damian Hughes served as Pastor of St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Working with women in the church and community, Rev. Hughes and his team dreamed of maximizing the variety of crops and increasing the harvest on the church property. Previously, this rural part of St. Kitts was one of the last sugar producing areas of the country. The new plan turned the fields into consumable crops. He and the women worked with a nearby college’s Agriculture Department and secured employees of the college who had expertise in hydroponics and farming technology. Today the property grows squash, sweet potatoes, sorrel, pumpkins, watermelons, and eggplants. Several nearby eco-tourist hotels are customers.

The Leeward District of the MCCA will work closely with existing cooperatives and the Department of Agriculture in St Kitts to ensure that St. Paul’s Methodist Church maximizes the potential of its farm. The plan includes using environmentally friendly and yield-increasing farming methods. The project will impact nearly 3,000 people, including women, youth and the general community living in the vicinity of St. Paul’s.

Know someone with a heart for the mission of Latin America and the Caribbean?

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Path1 Brings Church Planting Training to the South District of the MCCA

Evangelization has always been a key component of Encounter with Christ’s mission statement. In June and July of this year, the United Methodist Church’s planting team, Path1, partnered with the South Caribbean District of the MCCA to offer training in church planting for clergy and laity. The training came about from a conversation between Encounter Advisory Board member, the Rev. Keith Rae, and EWC’s Mission Interpreter, Doug Ruffle. Keith shared that he had been in communication with the Rev. Adrian Odle, Chair of Mission for the South Caribbean District about training in church planting. Doug serves half-time as Director of Community Engagement and Church Planting Resources/Path1 at Discipleship Ministries. He is the primary author and editor of a new resource entitled, Lay Planting in Today’s World: Engaging All People with Jesus’ Love.  After planning meetings via Zoom with Rev. Odle and Bishop Derick Richards, plans were made to offer the training.

Rev. Odle remarked that

“Methodism affirms the priesthood of all believers and the work of the laity. Lay Planting in Today’s World restates this fundamental teaching of our movement by highlighting their role in planting new faith communities for Christ. Dr. Ruffle and his colleagues clearly outline the theological pillars of church planting and the critical stages to be considered before initiating such a ministry.  They therefore not only include theory but the practical tools for those who would listen and be guided by God.”

The course has been available to US United Methodists for the past 18 months as an online course. The South Caribbean District asked Path 1 to deliver the training via live Zoom conferences. These live Zoom conferences were held June 24-26, July 16-17, and July 31. Ten sessions covered Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology as well as the seven seasons of church planting: discerning, visioning, gathering, discipling, worshiping, maturing, and multiplying. Participants were asked to put together an “Action Plan” for implementing a new ministry, presenting the plan to fellow students on July 31.  Thirty-nine clergy and laity participated in the training. Thanks to Methodist connexionalism, this training came together.

Our prayer is that the training leads to new ministries reaching new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.