The United Theological College of the West Indies usually celebrates Founders’ Week during the month of March annually. During Founder’s week 2014, the school honoured the late Rev’d Dr. Hyacinth Boothe, the first woman ordained as a Minister by the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). The celebration’s point of departure was Dr Boothe’s opinion, expressed in a sermon,that the traditional churches needed to go to the Balm Yard to truly understand the inclusive and relevant ministry.
I wish to follow up on the consideration of the Balm Yard Experience for the Church in Grenada and the Caribbean.
The balm is a powerful metaphor associated with healing. In one sense it is an ointment that soothes pain, while in another sense, it is the act of physical or spiritual healing. But it is a brokenness that drives us to the Balmyard for healing.
When the Prophet Jeremiah confessed, “For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am crushed. I mourn; horror has gripped me” (Jer 8:21). And then asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”, Gary Leupp (2020) in “Is There No Balm in Gilead?” reminds us that Jeremiah’s famous rhetorical question can be rephrased: “Is there no godliness, no justice, in Judah?
In the context of this writing, I shall focus on social justice. Because, while the Book of Jeremiah is an attack on misplaced worship, idolatry-it “is also all about social justice and the obligation of kings to protect workers” (para.6).
COVID-19 is an example of a disease that has driven people and states into the Balmyard.
An authentic Balmyard experience results in a healed church from healed people. A healed church holds itself and others accountable. In fact, it reminds employers that they have a responsibility to be fair and just in their dealing with employees. Employers cannot file for claims that may be construed as unethical. It also means that governments have a responsibility to be fair and just in dealing with their citizens. We have seen in other countries how well-intentioned laws have gone astray.
Lastly, it means that spiritual leaders have a responsibility to be fair and just in dealing with their congregants. We have seen in other jurisdictions how well-intentioned pastors die of COVID-19 and their congregants infected, being too quick to ‘return to church.’
How are our actions, behaviours, conduct, decisions, laws, outlook, policies, and programs in keeping with a social justice framework, born out of humility from the Balmyard experience of healing?
Pastor Vonnie James