President David Granger: I’m happy to be here again. I was here last January and I would like to start off by extending our congratulations to the Bishop Spencer- Bishop Glenna Lerise Denise Spencer- all of the above; on her national award. The award was for her stewardship and her leadership in this Methodist district and I personally would like to start by congratulating her and by thanking her for her service to this church.
Friends, I’m not sure if my remarks this afternoon will be precisely what the chairperson expects, but let me start by saying this is a special year in the history of Christianity; it’s a special year in the history of the church.
This year we celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This is a movement which started when Martin Luther, not Martin Luther King when Martin Luther, who was a monk – he challenged the authority and the doctrine and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church 500 years ago. On the 31st October, 1517 he nailed what was called one of the 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg in the country of Germany. I don’t need to go into what those theses contained, but let me say this: although it seemed simple for a monk in a faraway place to nail these theses of protest against the church to which he belongs on a church door; it started what I believe to be the most significant change in the Christian doctrine since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It sounds like an extravagant claim to make, but I believe that what Martin Luther did in October 1517 completely transformed the way we human beings saw the church and our relationship with God.
Most important is that what he did there triggered something called the Protestant Reformation, it started a course throughout what is now known as Germany, but it affected Europe and today we here, in this hall, are children of that Reformation; you’re part of the Protestant communion. Yes, the Protestant Reformation challenged Roman Catholic Orthodoxies and as you know, countless branches of Christianity developed in the form of new churches and new religious organisations. Not only was the religious map of Europe redrawn but more directly as it concerns you it is the foster mother of the Methodist church right here in Guyana, as I said, we are all children of the Reformation.
My brothers and sisters, this is not only the five hundredth anniversary of the reformation – and I’m sure your church will instruct you and educate you about that but it is also a year when we in Guyana must consider reforming the way we worship; the way we govern our own country. Reformation means and requires responsiveness; it requires resolute resilience and this is the year when we must purposefully use and learn the lessons of the reformation to confront the serious social problems we still face in Guyana – and these are the problems which brought the Methodist Church here over 250 years ago I’m told, in the first years of the 1800s.
The Methodist Church in Guyana has played a historic and honourable role in changing society and doing God’s work. This conference itself is testament to the church’s commitment to change. The church therefore cannot be unaware of the present day problems which confront Guyanese. And last year when I was here I spoke about the four horsemen of the Guyanese apocalypse. Those of you who read the Bible would know of the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the Book of Revelation, but in my view we still are being trampled by the four horsemen of the Guyanese apocalypse and those are crime; we have problems of suicide; we have problems of murder; we have problems of arson- sometimes husband and wife can’t get along and somebody burns the house down; two friends go drinking at a wedding party, one stabs somebody else; some violent husband cuts his wife’s hands off. These are the crimes we can’t ignore; these are the scourge on society.
The second horseman is disease. We still have too many of our young people suffering from malaria and filaria; they are threatened by chikungunya and other diseases which are transmitted by mosquitoes, dengue.
The third horseman is ignorance. Every year, three or four thousand children drop out of primary and secondary school; many of them can’t read and write. I’m sure some of you have met them, they are wearing gold studs in their ears, they dress fancy, but they can’t read, can’t even spell fancy, but if those people drop out of school how will they enter the world of work? How will they be employed?
And finally, we have the scourge of poverty. I know what Jesus said about poverty, but I beg to disagree. I don’t believe that the poor must always be with us. I think people can lift themselves out of poverty; I think they can lift themselves out of poverty through the grace of God, through education and through hard work. I’m not saying that people who are poor are lazy or that they are not devout Christians, but sometimes the structures of society as I mentioned; the fact that some of the children don’t go to school or they drop out of school could result in their becoming poor; sometimes you see people who are poor, what I call ‘hereditary poverty’ when you look at the mother – the mother poor; the grandmother poor; they have always been poor- its hereditary poverty and sometimes poor people have no options, they have no choices.
When you see a child in the Pomeroon who doesn’t go to school it is not because the child is lazy; they can’t afford to go to school and that is why I have given them a boat -a school boat. All over this country some children do not go to school because they can’t afford the minibus [fare]; they don’t have a bicycle; there is no boat to take them to school and if they don’t go to school they can’t get good employment; they can’t learn the new technologies and they remain poor. Sometimes the mother is poor, her husband dies or goes away and she has to go to work for a small amount of money, maybe $50,000 or $60,000 – the child wants shoes, the child needs food, the child wants lunch kit and the money is too little to spend.
So we have these four horsemen of the Guyanese apocalypse: crime, disease, ignorance and poverty and too large a part of our population has been trampled by these four horsemen. So it is a task when the church is not afraid to confront; that is why the Methodist church came here and that is why this year of the reformation we must look again at the way we worship and the way we educate and the way we treat our spouses, our children, our homes and let us try to do, in a way, what Martin Luther did 500 years ago; challenge the orthodox, bring about your own reformation in your home, in your school, in your community and in the country. I do believe that if we apply the doctrines of ‘Methodism’ we can overcome those challenges.
At the heart of ‘Methodism’ is the is the theology of John Wesley; a theology which stressed the life of holiness and the words of the Bible and the words he used were “To love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength and to love one’s neighbour as one’s self” – powerful words. If you are living in Plaisance or Port Mourant or Den Amstel or Georgetown and you love your neighbour as yourself and you see your neighbour’s child not going to school because he or she can’t afford a minibus fare what is the Christian response? What would Christ do?
So the doctrine of Methodism is powerful and if we actually love our neighbours as we love ourselves, we will go across and say, how can I help? “I’ve got a car; let me give your child a drop to school.” “I’ve got two loaves, let me give your child something to eat at breakfast time,” – powerful. Christianity is a powerful source to social growth.
My brothers and sisters the Methodist church has a proud history in this country. I think some of the churches today are perhaps not as well kept as they used to be 50 or 60 years ago. I remember riding by Susamachar Methodist Church all over in Mocha, in West Demerara you still have Methodist churches although they are not well attended nowadays. But the church was never afraid to carry the gospel to Africans or to Indians or to Amerindians. The church never discriminated; it never built walls between communities; it never shut people out; it was always inclusive; it always welcomed people who were devout and of good faith.
It is my view and I have said before, over and over, that the lives of young people like the lives of big people too, like any community, are based on four pillars and for those of you who are of African descent I have said this before. At Emancipation time when your forefathers came out of enslavement on the plantation to build those free villages, it is not because they didn’t like to work but because they saw the need for a good life, a need for a better life and those villages as we know very well, those of you who come from villages, were built on four pillars and those four pillars were the home: they wanted to bring their families together because during the period of enslavement a wife could be sold to one plantation and the children could be sold to another plantation. So after they became free they built homes so that their families could come together – and it is a lesson we need to learn today; children belong in the home, not on the street. There should be no such thing as a homeless person or a street-child; everyone should be in a home and that is what I regard as the first pillar of those villages and the first pillar of Christian society, bringing the family together again.
The second pillar was the church and if you go into those villages and one of the most prominent features were the churches and I always tease my friends in Victoria that if you throw a stone in the air it would land on a church because there are some many churches there; but this is typical because even though our fore parents who came off of the plantations might have been illiterate they weren’t stupid; they wanted to bring their families together and worship God.
The third pillar was the school. Those days there was no Ministry of Education people built the school with their hands and many of the churches, including the Methodist church they not only built churches but they also built schools. I grew up at Bartica and when I went to Saint John the Baptist Anglican Church I can look out and see the school – the Saint John the Baptist Anglican School and when I went to the Corentyne – I went to the Auchlyne Church of Scotland School and when you look out the window there it was, the Saint Saviour’s Presbyterian Church and when I came to Georgetown I went to the Comenius Moravian School. I look out Comenius Moravian window there is Comenius Moravian Church, so we always had church and a school together and one was responsible for academic education, but the other was responsible for the spiritual education and we shouldn’t separate the two.
And the fourth pillar my brothers and sisters, is that four letter word which some people like to avoid work-W.O.R.K. Work is good. Work is good and without work the forefathers of the present generation of Guyanese could not survive, Africans could not survive, they had to farm there was no supermarket those days; they ate what they produced. Indians had to farm; Amerindians had to farm; that’s work. So if you live in a family that doesn’t like to work or a village where young people don’t like to work, we’re heading into catastrophe and if those four pillars are knocked down the village will fall, the community will fall.
If you go into a community and there are no homes, there are no schools, there are no churches, there are no farms or work places what is going on there? Is not even a squatter settlement, it will just be anarchy, it will just be chaos. So as we contemplate this year of reformation I urge you, young people to look at preserving those four pillars: the home that is where your family resides- holy family, sacred family; the church, where you worship; the school where you learn and the workplace where you earn your keep. All four pillars support the life of Christian holiness and instil the values that the founders of this faith intended: the values of virtue, the values of love, the values of faith and compassion and these are the values which in my view are required for a good life.
The Methodist Church of Guyana, as I said, has been here for over 250, we are not sure of the date but it has consistently and quietly played a role in education, in the spiritual formation, in the cultural development and the social organisation of young people. I don’t know which the first church but I know the Kingston Methodist Church was built in 1831 and that is the very year that the colonies of Guyana were united before that we had Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice and up to that time they were administered as separate colonies, but in 1831, under the Governor Benjamin D’Urban, the colonies were brought together and became British Guiana and that is why across the way there you still call it D’Urban Park so you remember the Governor who united British Guiana- Benjamin D’Urban.
But today we have a government which you elected and that government has set itself a mission of ensuring a good life for all. What does this mean? It means giving young people increased opportunities to enable them to become the best that they could be – if they want to be scientist; if they want to be teachers or technologists; if they want to be mathematicians; if they want to be pilots or engineers; we want them to be the best in their field and the most that the government could do is to create the conditions so that you can live in a cohesive society and avoid being trampled to death by those four horsemen: crime, disease, illiteracy and poverty.
The government needs to create the conditions for you to live in a cohesive society and to respect human values, respect each other- sometimes you see a lot of hatred and intolerance in the world and we have to learn to respect each other; the persons next to you may be a Hindu, the person in front of you might be a Muslim, the person behind you might be a Baha’i or a Rastafarian, don’t laugh at them, do not believe that you are the chosen one; we learn ought to respect them. The person next to you might be Indian or African or Chinese or Portuguese or Amerindian, the person might be mixed but respect; respect everyone.
So when we speak of a good life, we speak about a society which is cohesive; we speak about relationships which are based on respect; we speak about giving people opportunities and without that respect, without that love, without that compassion the horsemen will break in. If a man doesn’t respect his wife there will be hatred, somebody is going to commit a crime, burn the house down or stab someone; the children are going to be abused and neglected and we see this over and over again once there is no respect.
Young men have to learn to respect young women. I go into the hospital on Christmas day, a blessed day and sometimes you see a 13-year-old girl there with a baby; some man, some adult has impregnated her, it’s rape. To have sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl is rape -that’s what it is and rape is lack of respect; it’s a crime; it’s exploitation and sometimes that young girl bears a child for a relative, sometimes a father or an uncle.
If there is no respect in society the pillars will fall down. If you see what happens in some other places in which people of one religion disrespect people of another religion. Then there is murder, there are massacres, killings; people can take a truck and drive it into a crowd of human beings – that is not the type of society we want in Guyana. So from youth, from childhood, we have to learn to respect each other if we are to live in this cohesive society and if we are to fulfil the doctrines of our Christian church; this Christian message that we take to others but first we must believe that message ourselves.
The government’s goal is to provide increased opportunities to enable young people to become the best that they could be and we want to encourage young people along the path of self-actualization. That when they are in school they are encouraged to continue their studies rather than quit, rather than drop out so that they can become that engineer or that mathematician, that scientist that is what I call self-actualization- be the best that you could be. And also self-esteem, respect yourself, respect your body, respect each other and I come back to the theme that if young men learn to respect young women we will avoid many of the problems in society. It is out of disrespect that we have so much neglect and abandonment that we have girls who are wandering, wandering girls – that’s why we have trafficking in persons, out of sheer disrespect of one gender for another gender.
My brothers and sisters, young people need to be educated. They need to be employed; they need to be empowered if they are to enjoy these opportunities and opportunities abound and the church over the last 250 years has tried hard to provide the foundation on which people can build good Christian lives. The church’s youth ministry therefore, in my mind, goes beyond mere worship, mere church services, it has to prepare young people to participate fully as responsible members of society.
Education is vital to young people’s development- every child belongs in school without exception. Even if that child is physically challenged that child could find a place in some school that caters for persons with that disability. Last week I was at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre and I told the story of one of the most beautiful sights I have even seen in this country on Thomas [Lands] close to Camp Ayanganna I saw a group of about 12 children they had just come out of the David Rose School; they were all dumb, they couldn’t speak but they were laughing; you could see the expression on their faces – this is about three o’clock in the afternoon – and they were using sign language to speak to each other and there was some joke and all of them knew it, you could see the smiles on their faces.
I felt like an outsider. They were perfectly silent and having fun and I could talk and I couldn’t understand, but It shows you that even children with disability are not brain dead, they can communicate if they are given the opportunity and that is what the church must look for – giving people that opportunity.
We live in a world with increasing complexity and a person who is uneducated will find it very, very difficult to get ahead in this world. Equally we live in a world of crime and hatred and unless we come to places like this and worship, unless values are inculcated in the young people that hatred will fester and will create a society which is full of violence and crime.
So my brother and sisters, these are my few remarks to you today. Once again I would like to applaud the efforts of the Methodist Church in emphasising youth development at this annual district conference. I would like to urge the church to continue its work with young people and to prepare them to grasp the opportunities to enable them to live that good life.
Once again, I would like to thank your Bishop for the work she is doing and to pray that God will continue to bless the Methodist Church in Guyana.
I thank you.

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