Members of the Church of the Nazarene in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday celebrated 40th years since the denomination first arrived in the country.
The celebrations took the form of a worship service and a concert at the Peace Memorial Hall in Kingstown.
The service was held under the theme “Celebrating the Journey: Chartering New Beginnings” and saw members of the four Nazarene congregations in St. Vincent being challenged to begin their 41st year in the country as if it were the first.
In his address to the worshipers, Rev. Kelron Harry, chair of the St. Vincent Zone of the Church of the Nazarene, expressed pleasure that some of the first members of the church in St. Vincent are still members. Among them, he mentioned Wendell Haynes, Bertram Mafford, Thelma Simmonds and Stella Browne.
“We want to thank God for those wonderful people,” said Harry, who is also pastor of the Arnos Vale Church of the Nazarene.
He noted that the Church of the Nazarene came to St. Vincent in 1976. “And today, we are celebrating 40 years since that foundation was laid and we are looking forward to what God is going to do through us and with us,” Harry said, adding that the Church of the Nazarene in Latin America and the Caribbean has been challenged to double its membership and clergy sizes by 2020.
“Some may say, ‘Well, that is extremely difficult.’ So that means that each one of us will have to win someone. And if each of us wins someone, then the task becomes less difficult. Each church has been called to start a new work also,” Harry said.
Pastor of the Penniston Church of the Nazarene, Rev. Carl Jackson, noted that he has been a Nazarene for almost 40 years and has witnessed the various phases of the church in St. Vincent. “We know the hills and the valleys; we know the sunshine and the rain, but we also know a God who is awesome, a God who is great, a God who can take above and beyond,” said Jackson, who once led the oldest Nazarene congregation in St. Vincent, (Arnos Vale) and is now leading the youngest.
He reminded congregants that they are serving “a God who will cause us to soar on the wings of eagles, a God who can turn a mess into a blessing, a God who can turn darkness into light, a God who can do the impossible.”
And, Fidel Taylor, pastor of the Rillan Hill Church of the Nazarene, noted the significance of 40 in the Bible. “It is also a year of new beginnings… It can mean a time of purification, a time of cleansing, a time of maturity; it represents a journey, a vision and a legacy that is now left behind for the next generation to follow,” Taylor said.
Taylor added: “So, as we reminisce, let us look forward to the new beginnings for the Churches of the Nazarene.”
Meanwhile, Rev. Chiefton Charles based his sermon on Isaiah 52:7 — “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ’Your God reigns!’”
Charles commented: “If that does not evoke anything in you, I don’t think anything else would.”
He said that as the Church of the Nazarene in St. Vincent reflects on celebrating the journey and thinks of charting new beginnings, it is also important to note that there are 21,912 established Nazarene congregations around the world, representing a membership of 2.4 million — making the Church of the Nazarene the largest Weslyan-holiness church in the world.
Charles, who is pastor of the Enhams Church of the Nazarene, urged Vincentian Nazarenes to reflect, but not to wallow in the successes or challenges of the last four decades, saying, “I don’t believe that deep down inside we are satisfied with what has transpired in the 40 years that has gone. We could have done a lot better.”
He added: “But, let us not look back at the journey to cry over spilt milk. We look back at the journey to identify the mistakes we … have made and to see how we could avoid them in the future. As we chart the new way forward, let us realise that though we have come a long way, the journey had only just begun.”
He told congregants that Moses went through three 40-year stages of his life and had to take a new guard at the beginning of each phase.
“So we have to start our 41st year as if we are just beginning. Yes, we acknowledge the gains that have been made, but let’s not gloat over them; let us forge ahead,” Charles said, and, echoing the words of Paul in Philippians 3:14, urged members to press forward toward the prize of the high calling.
Sunday’s worship service was followed by a concert that afternoon, also at the Peace Memorial Hall.