A group of 16 participants attending the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) Annual Gathering in Jamaica took the opportunity to tour a number of historical sites significant to Baptists on the Caribbean island.
Visits were made to the site of the first Baptist church in western Jamaica, founded in 1791 by Moses Baker, a former African American slave who had moved to the island. Baptist witness had begun in Jamaica in 1783 under the leadership of another African American, George Liele, who planted the first church in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital.
Locations associated with Baptist deacon and Jamaican National Hero Samuel Sharpe were part of the tour. These included Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay where Sharpe was a deacon and where it is believed his remains are interred under the pulpit; as well as Sam Sharpe Square in the heart of the city where there is a monument in his honor and another monument listing the names of those who were punished for their roles in the slave revolt that Sharpe led in the 1830s.
The group went to the William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church in Falmouth, named after perhaps the most well known missionary to Jamaica who was at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement in the former British colony.
Another stop was made at Calabar, site of what is believed to be the first Baptist theological college for black pastors in the western hemisphere. The school was founded in 1843 and later closed its doors to join theological training institutions of other Christian traditions to create the United Theological College of the West Indies in 1966.
The final stop was at the St. Ann’s Bay Baptist Church where the group gathered for a short prayer at the site where tradition holds that chains, shackles and other implements of slavery were buried the night slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1838.
Another group of 14 attendees at the Annual Gathering, which included Baptist World Aid Director Rothangliani Chhangte, visited a BWAid-funded project in the inner city community of Jones Town in Kingston. “Farming inna di City” (Farming in the city) is an agricultural project of the Jones Town Baptist Church in association with the Jamaica Baptist Union Mission Agency, with collaboration from the Bethel Baptist Church Thrift Cooperative Society and the government’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
Its aim is to bring about urban renewal, food security, economic independence, educational development and to transform the lives of inner city residents through skills training and gainful employment. The project, which is in its second year, provides 12 persons and their families with a source of income and food.
The group also went to the One Hundred Lane and Park Lane communities. Both communities, which adjoin each other, have a history of violent rivalry that has resulted in deaths, injuries and the burning of properties. Intervention by the JBU beginning in 2002 through monthly meetings, worship services, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, evangelism, health services, education, financial assistance and other forms of help, has led to the ending of the violence.
“It is our intention to continue these kinds of visits at future BWA Annual Gatherings where there are BWAid-supported projects,” Chhangte said. “It is an important way to identify with those who have been touched by Baptists around the world.”
More than 400 Baptist leaders, theologians, teachers, pastors and others from 40 countries are in Jamaica for the BWA Annual Gathering from July 1-6 in the north coast town of Ocho Rios.
Baptist World Alliance®
© July 4, 2013