Georgetown, Guyana – (September 16, 2018) President David Granger, today, urged the Ebenezer Congregational Church, one of Guyana’s oldest churches and a member of the Congregational Union here to cooperate and collaborate to arrest social decay.

The Head-of-State, who was at the time speaking at the 175th anniversary service of the Den Amstel, West Coast Demerara church said through cooperation and collaboration, the Church can become a beacon of hope.

“The Church should cooperate and collaborate with the neighborhood democratic council, other churches and other religious and civil society to arrest social decay. The Church should return to its role as a social leader. It is a credible organization in this community. It should utilize this public trust to solve social problems – such as domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, teenage pregnancy and school absenteeism – which may exist on the West Coast,” President Granger stated.

He noted too that congregationalism and service to communities are inseparable and the bonds between church and communities should therefore be reinforced. “The Church calls on us to do good through service to others, including those within our communities. The Ebenezer Congregational Church is married to the proud tradition of community service. The Ebenezer Congregational Church should uphold this proud legacy. The Church, through its service to this and neighbouring communities, should seek to become a catalyst for good, as was 175 years ago. This would be a fitting and forward-looking way in which to celebrate the 175th anniversary of its establishment,” the Head-of-State said.

Congregationalism he stated came to this country 210 years ago as part of the work of the London Missionary Society to minister almost exclusively to Africans. It became a beacon of hope in desperate and despondent times as Congregationalists supported Africans in their struggles both during and after enslavement.

“Freed Africans, after Emancipation, initiated the Great Village Movement. Cotton, coffees and sugar plantations were purchased and free human settlements were erected in their place. Congregationalism became a bedrock upon which this Movement was erected. It inspired the freed Africans to establish churches in many of these free villages. The descendants of the founders of these villages, in turn, looked to the Church to continue God’s work – churches to worship God, homes to keep their families together, schools to provide education to their children and farms to develop strong economies. Communities should be maintained as vital centres of spiritual life, blessed with the moral legitimacy and the material resources necessary for promoting the common good. Ebenezer Congregational Church, in the Congregational tradition of service, should become a beacon of hope for its communities once again,” he told the congregation.

President Granger said too that Congregationalism developed deep roots in African villages and it is no accident of history that most Congregational churches – the ‘A to Z’ – are still located in African villages and are more than 150 years old.

“Albion Chapel, in Fyrish, is 180 years old; Arundel Congregational Church will celebrate its 174th anniversary this year; Freedom Congregational Church in Stewartville, is 176 years old; Ebenezer Congregational Church, here in Den Amstel, is 175 years old; Smith Memorial Congregational Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary this year; Ebenezer Congregational Church in Ann’s Grove, is 156 years old; Mission Chapel Congregational Church, almost 200 years old, is the oldest Church in Guyana; and Zoar Congregational Church celebrated its 165th anniversary this year. Congregational churches distinguished themselves by their service to their communities,” the President stated.

Churches he stated became community centres and classrooms. They were part of the social architecture of their communities, supporting the four pillars – faith, family, farm and the school. Congregationalism mentored local leaders, demonstrating the ability of locals to manage their own affairs, he added.

Guyana, the President said, owes a debt of gratitude to the Congregational Church as it pioneered education before and after Emancipation, supported community development and provided assistance to those in need. As such, President Granger said that the Church should deepen its involvement and integration in the community. It should work in, for and with the community to provide opportunities, especially for the young people, he declared.

Meanwhile, leader of Ebenezer Congregational Church, Reverend Valeska Austin said the church must take time to reflect on its stewardship as it works towards “Restoring its Congregational Heritage.”

“The fact that we are striving to this tells us that something is not right. Something has been fractured and we are setting out to restore it to what it once was. It is a good time for refocus, to introspect. We must know what is our heritage. We must know what the Church did back then, what it did to impact the communities and the lives of its members. In 1843, the Church had a mission. There were houses and schools where people were taught to read and write, where they were taught morals and values and how to build strong families and communities and as we reflect, we must ask ourselves what we have today,” she said.

Reverend Austin committed to taking up the mandate as set out by the President to ensure that communities are rebuilt and a strong legacy forged.

The special celebration was also attended by Member of Parliament, Mr. John Adams, Regional Executive Officer of Essequibo Islands- West Demerara (Region Three), Mr. Denis Jaikaran, Deputy Regional Executive Officer, Ms. Jennifer Ferreira-McDougal, members of the Guyana Congregational Union (GCU) and Justice Oslyn Small, among others.

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