Path 1 Brings Church Planting Training to the Caribbean
By Doug Ruffle
In June and July of this year, The United Methodist Church’s planting team, Path 1, partnered with the South Caribbean District of The Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) to offer training in church planting for clergy and laity.
The Rev. Adrian Odle, Chair of Mission for the South Caribbean District and Bishop Derick Richards, reached out to Path 1 about offering the training. It had been more than fifty years since this district had planted a new faith community. Six virtual conferences were held via Zoom in which Path 1’s Doug Ruffle, Emily Reece, and Bener Agtarap shared topics drawn from the resource they co-edited, Lay Planting in Today's World: Engaging All People with Jesus' Love. After planning meetings via Zoom with Rev. Odle and Bishop Derick Richards, the training came together.
Rev. Odle remarked that
“Methodism affirms the priesthood of all believers and the work of the laity. Lay Planting in Today’s World restates this fundamental teaching of our movement by highlighting their role in planting new faith communities for Christ. Dr. Ruffle and his colleagues clearly outline the theological pillars of church planting and the critical stages to be considered before initiating such a ministry. They therefore not only include theory but the practical tools for those who would listen and be guided by God.”
The course has been available to U.S. United Methodists for the past eighteen months as an online course. The South Caribbean District asked Path 1 to deliver the training via live Zoom conferences. These live Zoom conferences were held June 24-26, July 16-17, and July 31. Ten topics covered Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology as well as the seven seasons of church planting: discerning, visioning, gathering, discipling, worshiping, maturing, and multiplying. Participants were asked to put together an "action plan" for implementing a new ministry, presenting the plan to fellow students on July 31. Thirty-nine clergy and laity participated in the training. Thanks to Methodist connectionalism, this training came together.
What is the MCCA?
The Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) was formed in 1967 when it became independent of its mother church, The British Methodist Church. Methodists from England first began preaching on the island of Antigua in 1760. Missionaries followed, establishing churches in most of the British colonies on Caribbean islands as well as the Gulf of Mexico coast in Central America. Today the MCCA includes eight districts, each led by a bishop: Bahamas/Turks and Caicos Islands, Belize/Honduras, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, South Caribbean District, and the Panama/Costa Rica District. Since 2020, Bishop Everald Galbraith serves as the Connexional President of the MCCA. The MCCA includes 700 congregations with more than 62,000 members.
Because of its proximity to the United States, the MCCA became a close mission partner with The United Methodist Church. Appeals to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helped respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti on August 14 of this year, but Haiti has received disaster relief from UMCOR, where it can work with partners such as the Haiti District of the MCCA.
Path 1’s prayer is that the training conference leads to new ministries reaching new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.