Confronted with closed schools, fear and concern for Covid-19 coupled with government issued constraints on assembly, conference administrators, pastors, teachers, students and church leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica hosted its first virtual Service of Thanksgiving and Consecration to God.
Six hundred and eighty-nine (689) students from the church’s 27 high and preparatory schools island-wide participated in the service, which was held on June 27, 2020 under the theme “Navigating the New Normal with Christ.”
Educators and students alike gave thanks to God for His leading in the church’s educational system despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the service to be done virtually through the church’s online church platform, which connected with all of the Union’s five conferences.
“The service was held to express gratitude to God despite the pandemic and invoke His blessings on our students as they matriculate to another level of their education, said Pastor Michael Henry, education director for the church in Jamaica. “We also are grateful for the fact that through technology we were able to successfully complete the academic year and give the students the opportunity to celebrate their achievements in a united way, though virtual.”The Government of Jamaica ordered schools to be closed on March 13, 2020, after the first case of the coronavirus was identified on March 10. The government reports state that 10 people have died of COVID-19 and 855 known positive cases have been detected as of July 28, 2020.
Since March, schools had to adapt to online classes. However, there was a small percentage of students in some remote areas who could not be reached virtually and so lessons were printed by the schools and delivered by teachers or picked up by the parents.
The government reports state that 10 people have died of COVID-19 and 855 known positive cases have been detected as of July 28, 2020.
Additionally, the church’s eastern region, which host online services each evening, has used the opportunity to do three online classes daily, Monday to Thursday, available to anyone interested. The program caters for a wide cross-section of students covering English, Mathematics, Spanish, Social Studies, Science, a learning-to-read course, and classes for CSEC.
“This online platform gives us the opportunity to make a contribution to the students who are at home and need continuing learning,” said Dr. Donna Brown, education director of the church in East Jamaica. “We use the opportunity to integrate faith and learning, not only to children enrolled in our Adventist Schools, but also to share this learning experience with others.”The classes have students joining the platform from the wider Caribbean, the United States, Canada and other parts of the world. The objective is to promote Adventist Christian education.
Benefits of Adventist Christian Education
In his discourse in the afternoon, Pastor Henry highlighted the benefits of Adventist Christian education and used the occasion to highlight its purpose in the plan of salvation.
“Education has to do with the bank of learning, the things we learn, the attitudes and skills and talents that we develop in order for us to meet our daily challenges, to build community and for us to be self-actualized. When we talk about Christian education we are talking about all these things from a Christian perspective, but when we talk about Adventist Christian education, we are talking about all these things not just from a Christian perspective but with a distinctive Adventist bias.”
Commenting on the service student representative for the St. Ann’s Bay High & Preparatory School in St. Ann, Anthony Andorn said “The environment was greatly welcoming! The feedback I received from the coordinators was encouraging and boosted my overall confidence in public speaking. Only some of the most humble and God-fearing persons could create such a heavenly platform for flourishing Christians to learn and grow.”For Pastor Henry, education is only as good as the philosophy that undergirds it and Adventist Christian education looks through the lens of the Adventist philosophy.
“This cannot be separated from the mission of the church,” he said, noting that in Adventist philosophy,” the work of education and redemption are one. One of the purposes of Adventist Christian education is to transmit our Christian heritage from generation to generation,” he added.
In his message, consecration speaker, Dr. Meric Walker, executive secretary for the church in Jamaica, challenged the graduates to be steadfast in the word of God.
“As the new norm threatens with immorality on every side, students, I say to you stand on the word of God, do not vacillate in the pool of popularity but stand for principle and righteousness. Remain true to the values you have been taught at your respective institutions of learning. Once you remain faithful, the Lord who is the principal of the universe, He will exalt you in due time.”
The New School Term
Schools in Jamaica are scheduled to reopen on Sep. 7, 2020 and a different approach is required. The government is recommending a phased approach according to age.
“What we have been planning is a blended approach – a combination of face to face and online instructions – to operate our schools when they reopen. In some cases church buildings will be utilized to provide additional space so that proper social distancing can be practiced,” Henry explained.
The church in Jamaica operates 27 high and preparatory schools with a student population of 4,694 and 355 teachers as of the close of the school year in June. The Adventist schools see a percentage ratio of Adventist to non-Adventists of 46 to 54 respectively.
To learn more about the initiatives and activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica, visit jmunion.org