SERVICE FOR 43rd ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE
Independence Square
November 22nd, 2009

The Rt Rev & Dr the Hon John W D Holder

The writer of Ps.144, after identifying some of  the experiences that are sure signs of national success: A good family life that allows the young to grow up in a safe and wholesome environment, an adequate and secure food supply and  a secure and peaceful nation, comes to the conclusion in verse 15:

Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord

The Psalmist was of course speaking about his nation in particular. But as we this day, in this service reflect on the state of our nation, this beautiful land we call home, we can relate to his conclusion and identify with his sentiments.

In spite of all the challenges that we face at this time, in spite of all the bad news about the economic conditions of the world we still continue to experience God’s blessings and his goodness, and there is hope.

This experience helps us like the Psalmist to connect God to what we have achieved, and to the blessings that come our way.  It assures us of God’s presence and strengthens in us a spirit of hope as we face the challenges of the day and work to chart a course for the future.

As we meet this evening to thank God for our forty-three years of independence, we must see the time spent in this beautiful setting as an effort to connect God to what we have achieved as a nation.


We connect God to what we are doing now to where this country is at the moment, and even more importantly, to our hopes about where we want to go.

In this service of thanksgiving we are not placing the critical issues we need to address as a nation - issues like the economy, education, transportation, law and order, and others on hold, but rather we are placing them in a context that keeps God in the picture.

And we need to do so. For we dare not reduce our drive for development in all its dimensions to a merely human effort.  We need to keep God in the picture as we wrestle with the issues today and seek to carve out a better tomorrow for ourselves and the generations to follow.

As we address the challenges that confront us each day, we must do so ever conscious of our responsibility to keep working for a society that is best for all of us, especially one that is best for our youth, one in which each person can experience like the Psalmist,  a deep sense of security and fulfillment. One in which our youth can be brim full of hope.

As we wrestle with the numerous issues that confront us, and work amidst all the challenges to carve out a better future, there are at least two important questions we need to address.  They are questions that relate well to our theme:

Passing on Our Godly heritage to the next generation

For before we come to the act of passing on, we must be fully aware of what we have that we would want to pass on, what we have that is worthy of passing on.

 


And so our first question is:

               What are the important qualities that we want                to preserve and pass on to the next generation?

This is a question that every Barbadian and especially every parent with young children, need to ask.  It places the focus of responsibility for the present and the future of our country on the shoulders of each individual in this country, especially the adults.

This responsibility is being exercised in this fast moving world where morality can become relative and values the variables that shift and change almost on demand. In such a world, we need a cluster of qualities, a cluster of values that remain stable.

We need a cluster of values that can be our anchor when the seas are rough, and can be the foundation upon which we stand and build as a nation.  They are the qualities that we should pass on to the young, to the next generation.

The question can remind us as well, that we should never allow individual responsibility to become blurred and lost in our rush to project the responsibility for all areas of our development on to our institutions.   In other words, we should not try to escape our individual responsibility by blaming our institutions for all the problems.

This question places the focus on each of us, on the individual, on each Barbadian. It is a reminder that the responsibility for the upkeep and development of this country rests with each of us. Each of us has an important role to play.

But we need to do far more than ask the question.  We need as well to address the critical issues it raises.  We must do so if we are to keep moving forward as a nation, paying attention as we do so to the welfare of our most precious resource, our people, but especially our youth.

In our stride towards development, we need to preserve our values and pass them on.  We need for example,  to preserve and  pass on the very essence of our Barbadian character, that resilience blended with a common sense approach to life and a solid faith in God that has served us well in the past and can continue to do so.
 
In spite of a  popular understanding in the world that being aggressive and bombastic can do it for us, the sensible and decent level-headed approach that is deposited in the traditional Barbadian character can continue to serve us well today and the succeeding generations of tomorrow.

Over the years, we have not had the luxury of living in excess, but we have used what little we have, to shape and develop this country into the gem it is today.  We have done so driven by a sense of what it takes to survive in this world.  We have done so standing firmly on our faith in God who, we believe, is always with us. 

Here is the kind of gem moulded over the years by the Barbadian experience that we need to pass on to the youth, especially in these challenging economic times.  They are growing up in a world where there is an increasing emphasis on wants rather than on needs, an approach that seems to run counter to the old Barbadian spirit of thrift.

We are bombarded each day by messages from all areas of the media, from all over the world. These messages try to lodge in the impressionable minds of our young people a wave of ideas that influences them about what they should see as the important things in their lives.

And many of these ideas may lead to a rejection of the qualities reflected in Barbadian approach to life that are absolutely necessary if we are going to steer a sensible path as a nation amidst the turbulence that we can encounter as we strive to move forward.

We hear each day how these influences, many of which originate elsewhere in this region and beyond, are depositing a number of negative approaches to life in our youth.  They are approaches that cannot work towards their wholesome development or that of their country.

These influences can distort reality, presenting life as a purely rough and tumble experience in which we can disregard respect for each other, the weak and vulnerable, law and order and try to do what we like when we like. These are surely not the type of attitudes the type of values that we want to preserve and pass on.

No responsible parent wants his or her child to be moulded by these negative influences that cannot assist with their development into responsible and mature adults.  We need to preserve our best values and pass them on.

We need therefore to ask ourselves another question:

What efforts are we making to control and counter the
  negative influences that can prevent our children, the next generation from accepting and embracing the values we
 want to pass on to them?
        
If we the adults accept that one of our primary responsibilities is to preserve and pass on to our children, to the next generation, those good and wholesome qualities that have served us well, then we cannot leave this process to chance.

We must make a greater effort to strengthen the qualities that we want to preserve. We must do so using them, teaching them as an alternative, indeed as a counter to the onslaught of the negatives  that come through the music and some areas of the modern technology.

We the adults cannot throw our hands in the air and surrender. Each Barbadian needs to make the effort to stem the tide.  We must do so fully aware that as adults it is our duty to make that extra effort in preparing the next generation to carry on the maintenance and the development of this good land of ours.

In this our 43rd year of independence let us the adults in this society set ourselves a goal of passing on the very best to the youth as we prepare them for their future responsibility.  Working towards this goal will take us beyond a concern for mere physical development to those qualities that testify to the development of the person.

These qualities will include those that we find at work in the ministry of Jesus Our Lord.  They are a spirit of kindness, a spirit of forgiveness, compassion, loving neighbour as self, respect for other persons, especially those who may differ from us, respect for law and order and the drive to make the very best of our God given talents.

These are qualities that cannot be legislated in the building on the other side of the careenage.  They must be home grown.  They must be sown and cultivated in a context that will allow for their growth and development. And the home above all other places should be where this process begins.

Yes other institutions like Church and School and the service clubs and other groups will play their part, they will assist with the process, but it is in the home that the foundation must be laid that the seeds must be sown, watered and tended.

Many of the challenges that we encounter with our young people and not so young in this country today stem from the lack of these qualities in their lives, qualities that will allow them to make their special contribution to the development of our beloved country.

Thank God the majority of our young people still embrace this positive approach to life and reflect them in their lives.  But we must keep working to ensure that more do so.

The values we have mentioned all have a strong religious base.  Indeed it can be argued that religion still provides the best context within which they can be nurtured and passed on.

And so as we push forward as a nation we must be extremely careful not to relegate religion to a status where it becomes little more that a cosmetic prop that makes us look good and respectable in the eyes of the public.

It must be seen as being at the very heart of our process of national development and our push forward.  It must be seen as critical to the shaping and nurturing of our youth. And religion here is more than the packaging and delivery of certain strands of religious traditions and cultural elements that we can manipulate to our own ends.

It is above all else a level of consciousness that helps us to place our efforts in a far wider context that takes us beyond human effort and endeavour, to God.  It keeps us aware of our limitations and reminds us of our strengths and God’s unending love.  It reminds us that there is more to life than life, there is God.

It can be the strongest barrier against the destruction of our values. It can be a bulwark against the negative and corrupting influences that prey on our youth.  It helps the nation like individual to do exactly what the writer of Psalm 144 does, that is to see our achievements as a nation as more than merely human effort.  It helps us to see them as great gifts of God.

Let us keep pushing forward as a nation in spite of the hurdles and the set backs.  As we face the current challenges let us draw on our spiritual resources to see us through.  For in spite of the challenges we are still experiencing the blessings of God.

We have inherited a solid Christian base upon which we have built many of the values that have guided this country over the years. Let us continue to build on this base.

And at the very centre of these spiritual resources is a strong faith in God.  Let it be the type of faith that strengthens us to do a very best. Like the Psalmist we too can count our blessings.

But with the blessings come the responsibility that takes us back to the two questions we asked earlier:

The first question:

            What are the important qualities that we want                       to preserve and pass on the next generation?

and the second question:

             What efforts are we making to control and counter                  the negative influences that can prevent our children                 the next generation from accepting and embracing these        values that we want to pass on to them?

represent the type of questions that we dare not ignore.  They should be our focus as we push ahead.

Parents and guardians I urge you to take these questions seriously. Yours is the responsibility to preserve and pass on to your children only the best. They are the future. Young people, yours is the responsibility to make good use of the many opportunities provided for you by your parents and guardians, by your school and by the country.

You are the future. Make it the best future possible.  The future of this country is in your hands. You will determine to a very large extent what type of society we have in the years to come.

Parents and guardians, do not blame the school, the Church or other institutions for what may be going wrong for your young ones when you may need to make a greater effort to counter the negative influences and guide them along the way that is good and wholesome.

No one will agree that parenting in these times is an easy task, but the responsibility does not disappear because of the difficulty.

We must continue to see our youth as a national treasure.  They are our treasure and each of us has a special responsibility for them.  Let us work and work hard to guide them along a path that is wholesome and righteous
 
In them we have invested the hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better Barbados.  But the future will be as good as the efforts we make today to guide them through the present.

We thank God for this good land he has given us. And when we look over the past, in order to appreciate where we have reached in the present, we cannot but see the hand of God at work.  We can see him at work though the thousands of persons who laboured in the past to build the foundation upon which we now stand in the present.

We hope with the Psalmist in Ps. 146 that the things he identifies as central for making life pleasant and life worthwhile: Good family life, the protection of our children, an adequate and secure food supply and a secure and peaceful nation, along with others we may want to add,  will continue be ours in this good land.

We thank Almighty God today for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us during the past forty-three years and long before. May he continue to bless us and to guide us.

May we make good use of his many blessings, so that the generations to follow will look back at out time and declare that we were good stewards of the good and precious gifts given to us by our loving and gracious God. 
        
And as we move forward, thanking Almighty God for his many blessings, let us take with us the words of the Psalmist:

Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord

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