09 Jun 2019 | Royston Philbert
A total of 427 pathfinders from the British and U.S. Virgin Islands recently received the green light to move up in rank during their annual Congressoree; their pins and stripes tout Christianity in an age of “religious nones”.
The Congressoree, which took place on St. Croix from May 24 through May 26, resulted in the investiture of 155 pathfinders from the BVI and 83 pathfinders from St. Thomas and St. John. St. Croix carried the highest number of invested participants, totalling 189 pathfinders.
Investiture represents holistic development, which includes religious and spiritual progression. But while this group of 9 to 15-year-olds showcase their knowledge of the sanctuary and repeat a pledge that reminds them to “be a servant of God and friend to man,” they are coming of age adjacent another growing group of young people – “religious nones.”
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center report, more and more Americans have separated themselves from religion. Six-in-ten of the religiously unaffiliated young adults who were surveyed described their religious identity as “nothing-in-particular”.
“It’s very important for you to know that your identity is wrapped up in Jesus,” Pr. Timothy Leito told pathfinders among a crowd of hundreds of uniformed bodies and church members at the St. Croix Educational Complex gymnasium on Saturday, May 25.
In his address, he also cited statistics on a growing exodus of Christian youth. He suggested that the solution is to view the church as more than a building. Jesus aptly demonstrated, through his acts of kindness, parables, and miracle-working, that “church is about men and women, boys and girls, having their needs attended to,” Leito said.
For 14-year-old Voyager Charles Baptist, the Congressoree experience helped fulfill his social needs. The best part of the entire program, the Crucian native said, was “meeting new people” from Tortola and St. Thomas.
Baptist was a flag bearer during the annual “March of Witness” – an event in which pathfinders from all three islands join together to show the community the values they stand for.
Scores of uniformed bodies marched in synchronization on Sunday, May 26, from the Juanita Gardine Elementary School to the St. Croix SDA School in Welcome. Some held flags and others, banners that read, “I love to serve.”
Accompanying the marchers were three sets of drum corps from Tortola, St. Thomas, and St. Croix.
As the pathfinders and other uniformed personnel marched to the energizing rhythms through the Water Gut community and the streets of the historical town, they attracted local and tourist spectators.
According to North Caribbean Conference Youth Director Vincent A. David, that’s the idea.
“The march does two things,” he said. “One – it becomes a march of witness to those who view and follow and two….To put them on the march is to keep them focused and, at the same time, to role model what youths are about when they are disciplined.”
In a time of growing religious scepticism, it seems that pathfinders still aim to stand out and represent Christian values.
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