Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Sunday morning charged the Bishop and congregation of the Smith Memorial Congregational Church to reclaim its position as a beacon of hope for communities across Guyana.The Minister of State, who was at the time addressing congregants at the Church’s 175th anniversary service, reminded that the Church has a role to play in the areas of social, community and economic development as it once did during the period of slavery and at the time of emancipation.Minister of State, Joseph Harmon shares a light moment with Reverend Oslyn Small of the Smith Memorial Congregational Church during the church’s 175th anniversary service on Sunday“The Church should return to its role as a social leader. It is a credible organisation in this community. It should utilise this public trust to solve social problems – such as domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, teenage pregnancy and school absenteeism. Smith Memorial Congregational Church, in the Congregational tradition of service, should become a beacon of hope for its communities once again,” he stated.Minister Harmon noted that congregationalism and service to communities were inseparable and the bonds between church and communities should, therefore, be reinforced.Congregationalism, he stated, came to Guyana 210 years ago as part of the work of the London Missionary Society to minister almost exclusively to Africans. It became a beacon of hope in desperate and despondent times as Congregationalists supported Africans in their struggles, both during and after enslavement.Churches, he added, became community centres and classrooms. They were part of the social architecture of their communities supporting the four pillars – faith, family, farm, and the school.Congregationalism mentored local leaders, demonstrating the ability of locals to manage their own affairs, he added.Guyana, the Minister said, owes a debt of gratitude to the Congregational Church as it pioneered education before and after Emancipation, supported community development and provided assistance to those in need. As such, he said that the Church should deepen its involvement and integration in the community. It should work in, for and with the community to provide opportunities, especially for the young people, he declared.Meanwhile, Pastor Loris Heywood, who delivered the sermon, echoed similar sentiments as he urged the congregation to learn from its history and work to create a bright future for the lives it would touch through its ministry.The religious institution was opened on November 24, 1843 as a tribute to the work and suffering of the late Reverend John Smith, who was sentenced to death. Smith, a London Missionary Society Minister, died by hanging for the role he allegedly played in the notorious East Coast Demerara Slave Insurrection in 1823.He was referred to as the “Demerara Martyr” as a result of the circumstances surrounding his death.