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Living in a world shaped by the pandemic

“And the waters gradually receded from the earth.” (Gen 8:3, NRSV). “The crashing and receding waves of a tsunami engender both destruction and recreation as they reshape the landscape…. The story of the flood (Genesis 6-8) echoes the rhythm of destruction and regeneration that marks life. As the physical landscape is reshaped in this story, what of the human and cultural landscapes as we navigate the multifarious challenges facing our region?” (taken from CTCT Call for Papers, 2023)

For 6 days from June 26-30, the Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) reflected on the above theme, which gathered persons of faith from different denominations and parts of the Caribbean at the St Martin’s Retreat Centre in Mt. St Ervan’s Grenada. Among the denominations represented were Presbyterian, Spiritual Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Roman Catholic. Among some of the countries represented were Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Jamaica, the US, Guyana. It was the first blended conference held by the CTCT with in-person participants numbering over 30 persons while others joined online. The uniqueness of this theology Conference is its traditional structure to include both academic and non-academic contributions, engagement with the local church community, cultural activities and site visits to wonderful Caribbean locations. Recent additions have seen the inclusion of contributions from youth and public officials.  This year’s reflections saw a variety of themes emerging from about twenty-two presentations, including reflections on environmental justice, youth issues, death and dying, restructuring institutions and synodality. The Fisherman’s Birthday Celebration, marked by the blessing of the boats on St. Peter’s Day and the anniversary of Bishop Clyde Harvey were two celebratory events that marked this year’s Conference. Tributes were delivered to mark the memories and legacies of the late Bernadette Salandy and Jennifer Rahim as well.

The first day was dedicated to recognizing persons who had helped shape the Conference. The legacy of the late Bernadette Salandy and the contribution of Felix Edinborough were the highlights of this day. Day two saw the Conference being addressed by President of the Grenada Senate, Ms. Dessima Williams. Other contributions reflected on restructuring institutions, with Spiritual Baptist Pastor Ingrid Ruben challenging the Spiritual Baptist community to assess their rituals and practices in light of Paul’s guidelines for Christian community. A mixture of philosophical, ecclesiological and creative reflections marked day two as the panel comprising Nicole Poyer, Gerald Boodoo and Fr. Dexter Brereton sought to reimagine church and reality in more productive ways, while Claudette Sinnette, Fr. Don Chambers, Nicqi Ashwood of Jamaica, used creative expressions of spoken word, poetry, etc. to advocate for different types of societal change. The day culminated with the main lecture dedicated to Cheryl Herrera recognizing the contribution of women. Presenter Dr. Adanna James and respondent, Rev. Dr. Sonia Hinds of Codrington College, Barbados spoke to a spirituality to help effect change in the Caribbean context through an understanding of the feminine nature of God. Among the main highlights of the Conference were the Day 3 contributions on Death and Dying, Environmental Justice and the Youth Panel. Issues raised included the development of new rituals and mourning practices among the faithful and personal reflections on mourning through sickness and loss. Professor Alison Mc Cletchie, Fr. Martin Sirju and Gloria Bertrand led those reflections. Environmental justice issues included a reflection on the Paria pipeline tragedy by Catherine Ali mother of one of the deceased divers who raised the question of ‘Where is justice?’ in the issue. She was supported by Fr. Martin Sirju’s reflections on responsibility as he used Lloyd Best’s theory of non-responsibility, that is the inability to not even know one needs to take responsibility, as a main trope for understanding Ali’s reflections. The day was brought to a close with the Youth Panel that saw reflections on a variety of topics from Stephanie Baldeosingh, Mark Howell-Paul, Atalia Walcott and Dominque Jeremiah. Among issues raised was a call for researching the effects of the pandemic upon the youth population in the Caribbean, helping youth through identity crises and employing creativity as a way of inclusion of youth and personal accompaniment. The Conference was closed off with a panel on Synodality held on Friday that saw Bishop Clyde Harvey, Sr. Carla Thomas O.P., Fr. Don Chambers and Francisca Allard making contributions.