Guyana Congregational Union (GCU) celebrated 210 years of rich Congregationalist history and inspiring legacies in a commemorative worship service held in February 2018. Joining them in this historic moment as Guest Preacher and Chief Celebrant was CWM General Secretary Collin Cowan, who delivered a sermon on the anniversary theme “GCU on the move: Creating the Right Image”. He commended its church leadership for selecting this theme, which “speaks of audacity and ambition, the commitment and determination to be the church despite the odds” and lauded its efforts in addressing chronic challenges.

Outlining GCU’s history

The gospel came to Guyana Congregational Union (GCU) with the arrival of LMS missionary John Wray on 6 February 1808. It was at the request of slave owner Hermanus Hilbertus Post, ESQ, who intended to guide his slaves into subservience, unconditional obedience and unquestioning loyalty, and increase their market value. Besides preaching the gospel, Wray, however, took an interest in their social conditions and secretly taught them to read and write. His successor John Smith arrived in 1817 to slaves who, after being educated, began to assert themselves as people, not slaves. Many churches were planted throughout Guyana; and the pantocracy and the British government were being challenged to look at the brutality of the slave trade system. Smith was sentenced to death for his part in acts of liberation but died before the sentence was carried out.

A statement of defiance and devotion

Cowan called for the theme “GCU on the move” to be a statement of resistance and a commitment to the struggle for life for the Guyanese today. It is a statement of boldness and determination to stay the course, and devotion and faithfulness to righteous living. Social challenges such as rising rates of suicide among youth, poverty, violence and division remain a matter of concern and transformative action is urgently needed.

“Creating the right image is the church’s way of stating that we are here to stay; that God has planted us here for a purpose; that God has given us a mission and a message to the people of Guyana; and that God can count on us to be faithful to the end.  Creating the right image is our commitment to stand in the gap; to part company with the works of evil and to become champions of a future buoyant with hope and possibility,” stated Cowan.

Turning to Psalm 46 that portrays God as our refuge, he also invited GCU to “consider hope as the right image for the people of God”, for this means standing on the side of God in humble acknowledgement and complete reliance on Him.

Cowan identified hope as “the capacity to feel disturbed and discontented when oppression and dislocation define our condition; the courage to fight for that which is right and just despite the consequences; and confidence to see through the present struggles and face the uncertain future.”

He pointed out that the real initiator of the liberation movement was Onesimus – a slave owned by Philemon – who ran away when he saw himself as a real human being capable of relationship and brotherhood after he accepted Jesus Christ as Lord through Paul’s preaching. This capacity for discontentment with the status quo galvanised action that transformed his life, and subsequently, the lives of other slaves owned by Philemon.

Asserting that the audacity to hope is equal to the courage to act, he encouraged the congregation to exercise the courage needed to fight for what is right and just. In closing, he reiterated that the Christian community has the assurance and power of God’s presence to face an uncertain future with confidence and courage.

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Council for World Mission

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