The hills of Western St. Andrew came alive from January 28-30, 2022 as the youth of the Everton Park District participated in a series of events dubbed "#Pray & Scream: The Release Edition".
District Pastor, Darren Murphy, shared the inspiration for this initiative.
“Pray & Scream initiative was borne out of a need to facilitate catharsis for youth between 20 to 35 [years] to let out repressed emotions like anger, stress, abandonment, career frustration, and pain and the like,” he said.
On Friday evening, persons met on Zoom for “Let’s Vent”; a talk back session focusing on faith and feelings, looking more specifically at trauma, hurt and the Christian experience. As persons freely shared their struggles in relation to their faith journeys, they received additional encouragement through the sharing of Bible passages and moments of prayer.
All roads led to Everton Park for Sabbath afternoon’s activity dubbed “Praise Unfiltered”. More than 50 youth and young adults from the district, other churches in the Conference and even as far away as Canada, participated in a worship experience led by the male group, VOICES, and friends.
Keynote speaker and Youth Director at the Jamaica Union Conference, Pastor Dane Fletcher, charged those in attendance to take the risk and trust God. He spoke of how Rachel cried to the Lord in her barrenness and He answered and gave her a son, Joseph. Fletcher encouraged the youth that despite the challenges being faced, God has not left them alone.
“In the midst of loneliness, God remembers you! In the midst of abandonment and rejection, God remembers you! In the midst of joblessness, God remembers you! You are not forgotten,” he affirmed.
Four individuals shared gripping testimonies of their experiences with trauma, abuse and anger, and of how God has been working in their lives to heal and restore them, while using them as instruments to bless others. Sis. De-Andrea Bryan from Padmore SDA left the programme in a contemplative mood.
“If I’m ever ungrateful, God please forgive me,” she said. “Sometimes we go through things in life and they might be very minor, but for us it’s great. When I sat and I listened to the testimonies, I really had to look deep within myself.”
For those who needed a quieter approach to their release, they were able to put pen to paper and write the things they were struggling with or were desirous of overcoming and then toss them into a bonfire.
The weekend of activities culminated with “Let It Out”; a prayer walk and release session. Participants were able to pause and pray at seven stops, labelled trauma, pain, anger, abandonment and neglect, purpose and frustration, forgiveness and purity. Each stop also had a passage of scripture for contemplation, and the themes generated healthy, thought-provoking discussions among persons who opted to share the experience in groups.
“As I walked, I realized that it was okay to get into my feelings,” shared Nathan Richards, youth Elder at Guava Gap SDA. “God understands, and He has words of encouragement for me.”
The path led to an open field where persons were able to release their emotions by playing football or badminton, participating in competitive races or by suiting up and smashing old electrical appliances. The smash session proved therapeutic for those who participated.
An interactive feedback session followed by group prayer sessions brought the curtains down on a weekend where the youth screamed to release and prayed for answers.
“#Pray&Scream 2022 was a success as persons got a chance to let out repressed emotions,” said Murphy. “The event catered to an emotional need for persons struggling, and they got the chance to share their feelings and how it affects their faith. The objective was met.”
Sis. Omelia Gordon Simon from Everton Park SDA, commented on how the weekend of events impacted her life. “This weekend was a reminder to me that I am not alone in my struggles. Yes, others’ issues may not look like mine but we all have something dealing with and that’s why empathy is so important,” she noted.
Pastor Murphy thanks all parties involved in the successful staging of this initiative, and looks forward to the 2023 edition.