Journeys of faith, resilience


Jerome Teelucksingh

LAST MONTH there were book launches at the Heritage Festival of the National Council of Indian Culture.

Among the books featured was An Odyssey of Faith: Story of the Presbyterian Church of TT (PCTT). This publication is a treasure trove for research enthusiasts, or it may serve as a picturesque album for Presbyterians who prefer a leisurely stroll along their church’s memory lane. For yet others who relish an enthralling tale, it can be a miraculous narrative rooted in the colonial era.

An Odyssey of Faith captures the multidimensional contributions of the Presbyterian Church to the landscape of our country.

The book carefully encapsulates the church’s journey from cradled infancy through its unpredictable yet exciting and challenging adolescence, towards a beckoning century with promises for a responsible and sustainable adulthood. This text is a priceless souvenir in celebration of the 150th anniversary (observed in 2018) of the church in TT.

The church’s historiography, thus far, contains valuable scholarly material, including books and research papers, on varied topics, but probably devoid of the status reserved for an all-inclusive written history. The closest effort came in 1966, when the synod commissioned the compilation of the church’s history in anticipation of its centennial observance in 1968. Unfortunately, although much work was done, it was neither published nor officially received.

The expectation of 1968 is realised in An Odyssey of Faith, which stands unique with its historical snapshots and attempted synthesis of a voyage across 150 years. Herein is immortalised the legacy of the Presbyterian Church. It does not linger on the agony of its odyssey, but focuses on the ecstasy of its successes.

Notwithstanding any deficiencies, this is a classic and certainly a monumental effort to codify and compress into a one-volume text a highly complex and diverse tale, generously informative, but graciously reader-friendly.

This monograph, with its 32 chapters, is not merely a historical showcase of the legacy of a Christian denomination. It provides invaluable insight into the genesis and evolution of believers and leaders guided by faith and inspired by God.

This publication records the golden bygone era of fearless missionaries and undaunted church workers who humbly toiled amidst the challenging colonial vineyard. They made immeasurable sacrifices, including advice and counselling to empower and uplift a marginalised and despised segment of the population.

An Odyssey of Faith also incorporates the local successors who valiantly continued the journeys into the post-independence era and the 21st century.

Two salient characteristics of the PCTT that resonate throughout the book are organisation and discipline. Both are invaluable cornerstones that allowed for the birth of church administration, emergence of presbyteries, mission fields and configuration of pastoral regions. Evidence of this is in chapter two, which elucidates the structure and functioning of synod with its various boards and committees.

Likewise, chapter three delves into the various orders and reformulation of the church, including the catechists, ordained ministry, deaconess order, lay pastor and presiding elder. Both chapters allow the reader to grasp the necessity of trained and gifted human resources for co-ordinating and maintaining levels of excellence and transparency in the educational and religious institutions.

Chapters four and five emphasise the education spheres within the PCTT in which seeds of learning were cultivated that would blossom into civic-minded and patriotic citizens of TT. This progressive educational environment was not restricted to its well-known primary and secondary schools, but also encouraged at the St Andrew’s Theological College and Naparima Teachers' College.

An Odyssey of Faith weaves an exciting story of a church with an admirable track record in public service. This includes its vocational training and outreach to the young, females and the elderly. This is highlighted in chapter four, which focuses on the JC Mac Donald Home for the Aged, Archibald Vocational Institute for Girls, Iere Home Nursery School and the Iere Home for Girls. This extraordinary outreach beyond the walls of the church and school has saved hundreds of lives that were orphaned and unloved.

Some might believe the PCTT is dying or in declining. However, the book offers hope. Indeed, the legacy of the church is dynamic. The music ministry, abounding spirituality, worship and youth ministry all reflect a people whose spiritual fires cannot be extinguished.

Undoubtedly, this is not the final episode of the Presbyterian Church of TT’s history. Hopefully, this publication will provide the foundation to attract backsliders and inspire another generation of Presbyterians to maintain the progression and reputation of its churches and institutions.


"Journeys of faith, resilience"

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