Go into all the world, with respect
KINGSTON, JAMAICA - There’s no Bob Marley blasting from the…
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada — A delegation from Churches of Christ in Grenada, led by Richard Le Blanc, hugged and laughed with attendees as they arrived at the Maurice Bishop International Airport from locales including St. Lucia, Barbados, Miami, New York and London.
“Welcome to the island of spice, where everything is nice in Jesus Christ!”
“Welcome to the island of spice, where everything is nice in Jesus Christ!” a bus driver yelled as he took a group from Trinidad and Tobago to the Radisson hotel next to the white-sand Grand Anse Beach, site of the 50th Caribbean Lectureship.
It’s the same venue that the lectureship used when it first came to Grenada in 1987. Back then the hotel was a Ramada — and it was surrounded by barbed wire, a reminder of the armed conflict that shook the island three years earlier.
Kathyann Victor remembers hiding in her home for fear of being shot and hearing the sound of military helicopters outside. She was 8 when then-prime minister Bishop was deposed and killed by soldiers loyal to his deputy, Bernard Coard. The conflict ended after an invasion by troops from the U.S. and eastern Caribbean islands.
Victor was among the Grenadians who attended the 1987 lectureship. She remembers the singing, the speakers and special activities for her and the other children.
Thirty-six years later, she and her husband, Kenneth, brought their children to the lectureship. In a media-saturated age when more and more young people see church “as a ritual, something that they don’t have to do,” they wanted their kids to experience a larger fellowship, Kathyann said.
Her husband said, “I was really impressed — and kind of taken aback” after the lectureship’s Sunday worship. “It seems like we’re small and not known, but then you see that many people.”
Grenada’s acting prime minister, Philip Telesford, addressed the opening night of the lectureship.
“This is a gathering of saints of God representing the church of Jesus Christ,” he said, adding that the name of Jesus “must be heard in our cabinets, must be heard in our parliaments, and we must not be ashamed.”
When Ken Dye launched the lectureship a half-century ago, “I didn’t know if anyone would come,” he said.
Dye and his wife, Jane, moved to Jamaica in 1967 to work with churches and to help establish a preacher-training school. The missionary joined the Lions Club so he would have contacts in the business community. He attended the organization’s district meetings.
“Upon arrival at every island, there would be a large delegation of members to meet us, welcome us and, for the next several days, become our good friends,” Dye said.
He modeled the lectureship after those meetings. Hal Frasier, a former missionary to France and editor of World Radio News, publicized the first one, held in Kingston with about 125 participants.
Related: Go into all the world, with respect
Stanley Morgan, a missionary to the Dominican Republic, suggested that they close the inaugural event by joining hands in a circle and singing. At one point they broke the circle to represent Cuba. Every year participants prayed for the opportunity to take the lectureship to the communist nation. Those prayers were answered when Cuba hosted the event in 2005.
After 32 years, Dye transferred leadership of the conference to Jamaican evangelist Francis Yorke, who oversaw it for 18 years. Now Thaddeus Bruno, a preacher in Bermuda, serves as chair of the lectureship’s regional organizing committee.
“One of the smartest things I ever did was to turn loose of the leadership,” Dye said. As a result, the lectureship “has exploded in growth and in cultural identity.”
At this year’s lectureship, attended by nearly 500 souls, Dye and a panel of longtime organizers shared stories from the lectureship’s history — including a oceanside worship service on the island of Guadeloupe.
With their backs to the Caribbean Sea, attendees listened as Dye preached. One by one, however, they turned away from him and stared.
“Little did we know we set up church on a nude beach,” said Doug Kostowski, a longtime minister and travel agent who helped organize the early lectureships.
Dye added, “there is a picture over my shoulder of the audience. My mother is looking at me, and she’s the only one.”Perhaps it’s for the best that there were only a handful of attendees in those early years, said Terrence Baptiste, a minister from Grenada and lectureship coordinator.
“That we can have a crowd like this tonight,” he said, “tells us that our labors have not been in vain.”
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.