In addition to the usual footballers, this year netballers joined the rebranded Central Jamaica Conference (CJC) Recreational League which gives Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) youth a sports outlet and includes community evangelism.
The activity was formerly called the Recreational Football League when it launched in 2016 under then CJC youth director, Pastor Kevan Barnaby.
Current youth director, Pastor Dwayne Scott, says the league has four major objectives- to combine faith and fellowship, to be an evangelism tool, to include community members interested in sports and to build community connections.
From June 11 to August 20, twenty teams participated- 7 netball and 13 football- hailing from Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine. Each match included evangelistic features.
“We had worship before every single match and every person who played received evangelistic literature. Also, each team was to have a certain number of non-Adventist players. For football the number was four of the total 11 and for netball it was three of the seven. So that inclusion built the connection with those from the communities,” Scott explained.
Jacqueline Bennett, who served as one of the spiritual coordinators for the netballers, says the league had an exhilarating impact that was well needed.
“It created bonds of friendship and the participants wanted to see the activity more frequently done. The non-Seventh Day Adventists conformed to the code of conduct and tried as best as possible to emulate SDA values. They seemed excited about the experience,” says Bennett, a member of the SDA church in Diamond Acres.
President of the netball league, Subrina Francis-Brown echoed similar sentiments, noting that the activity pulls young people together and gives them something to look forward to.
“The conference really hit the nail on the head when they organised it. The camaraderie was great. There were times when tensions rose but we said to the participants ‘remember why we're doing this’,” she says.
Francis-Brown says spectators also looked forward to the matches and helped to reinforce that the event was friendly and christian-based.
“I remember some young boys from one of the communities came to a match cursing loudly. I heard a young man, also from the community, say to them ‘Listen, if you're not going to behave yourself, go home. This is a church match’. One of the boys came afterwards and apologised to Pastor Scott saying he didn't know it was church related. When community members see the respect, cleanness and fun they start asking if they can be a part of it next time. I think the impact was massive,” says Francis-Brown.
Scott reports that three persons decided to be baptised because of their involvement in the league.
The matches were played in inner-city communities using existing sporting facilities. This includes football fields in the Irish Pen and Homestead communities in SpanishTown, the Marley Acres complex in Old Harbour, the Holmwood and Waterford high school grounds and the Cumberland community centre.
The grand finals took place on August 20. The team from the SDAC in Tent City won the football league trophy while the team from the SDAC in Old Harbour took the netball trophy. Other prizes included cake and non-alcoholic wine.
Scott wishes to thank the teams that participated, federation officers and pastors who gave support and the communities that facilitated the matches in this fourth staging of the recreational league.