From the trenches to national honourees - Seven pastors given awards on Heroes Day
Baptist minister the Reverend Karl Johnson sees the bestowing of national honours and awards on seven pastors on Monday as a signal that the Church is still relevant and continues to do good work despite its shortcomings.
Johnson, the general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), was one of five members of the clergy who were given the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) on Monday.
The pastor said he was very surprised when told he would be given the national honour, which comes after years of working with the marginalised and underserved in society.
“Many of us work in the trenches with no expectation or desire for reward or acknowledgement. When one of us is so recognised, we accept it on behalf of all the others,” he told The Gleaner.
“I think you could hardly find another area of national life whose leaders and members have given more service – quiet, tireless service – than the Church,” said Johnson, who was appointed the first vice-president of the Baptist World Alliance mid last year.
Other members of the clergy who received the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) include fellow Baptist minister the Reverend Dr Roy Henry, for exceptional contribution to religion and community development; Anglican Bishop the Reverend Robert Thompson, for exceptional leadership in church and community; and Bishop the Reverend Everald Galbraith, former head of the Methodist Church in Jamaica, for exceptional contribution to religion and community development. Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards was awarded for exceptional contribution to religion and community, especially in youth empowerment training and education.
Bishop Dr Lennox Walker received the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) for outstanding service to religion and diaspora community development in Canada, while Pastor Rose Marie Haughton received a Badge of Honour for her sterling service to public service and community development.
A total of 126 persons, excluding the uniformed groups, received national honours and awards this year.
Johnson said the Church has had to become even more creative in evangelising and hosting services since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The JBU, which oversees 36 churches, has been encouraging church leaders to open their doors to facilitate students who cannot get access to the Internet and to assist those in need to purchase data plans.
“I don’t know of any other institution that is closer to more persons on the ground than the Church,” Johnson said.
“With all our flaws – there is no perfect institution and we as Church would be first to hold our hands up and talk about our own shortcoming – but over the past few months, God has been particularly gracious to us and we are seeing ministry take place in some imaginative ways, not that it is not hard,” he noted.
Johnson is aware that the Church has been accused of not doing enough in recent times to facilitate nation-building, but he said members of the clergy are not deterred.
“I have always said, if the Church was to just pull back, to retreat from the ministries and services that we engage in – from education to health and you name them – then the country will know where the real foundations are,” he said.