Devon Dick | Burchell Taylor Churchman of the Year
October 2017 marked the retirement of the Honourable Rev Dr Burchell Knibb Taylor as pastor of The Bethel Baptist Church, Half-Way Tree, and after 50 years, from active pastoral ministry with the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU).
Also, 2017 was the last time Taylor preached at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast. He was the first preacher at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast in 1981 in the aftermath of the bloodiest electoral campaign and general election. When the nation is in crisis it looks to Taylor for a word from God. This shows the stature of the man and the esteem in which he is held in the Church and country. So in 2017, it was not surprising that he was called to fill the breach at short notice after unease in the aftermath of the sex allegations that rocked the Church. He, of great wisdom, challenged the nation to an agenda of justice.
Taylor has extraordinary gifts and his friend, Oliver Daley, remarked at his appreciation service that when Taylor looks at a biblical passage he sees what others fail to see. He is a servant, a saint and a scholar. In fact, it is difficult to imagine what the Jamaican Church will be like with his retirement.
Taylor is known in Jamaica, the Caribbean and internationally as a preacher and has been the prince of preachers. However, not to be overlooked is his role as a caring pastor. Taylor as a pastor was available, approachable and accessible; Taylor was always willing to serve anyone, anywhere, anytime. He was known to visit his members in the hospital and offer prayers, counsel and hope through God. He was also an easy-going person who made people feel comfortable in his presence. Most persons who were in grave trouble and needed advice and help would automatically turn to Taylor. Additionally, Taylor was easy to reach although he was never seen with a cellular phone. He exercised a pastoral ministry which was creative and imaginative.
Taylor's service in the ordained ministry has been marked by a deep spirituality and commitment to Jesus the Christ and His witness and work. From his first pastorate in the Porus circuit to the Bethel circuit of Baptist Churches, Taylor has left large footprints which will be difficult to fill.
At the denominational level, Taylor has been one of the most utilised and dependable ministers. He has served as president of the JBU on two separate occasions and has been an influential voice in many important decision-making spaces. He has served as president of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship and vice-president of the Baptist World Alliance with self-confidence, integrity and dedication.
Taylor has been a wonderful example and inspiration to many of his colleagues who have admired his approach to family, church, community, country and the cosmos. He has been a pastor's pastor; a true bishop. Having the name of two outstanding British missionaries (Burchell and Knibb), it is not surprising that fortuitously his exercise of God's mission has been liberating and counter-cultural.
Taylor's legacy, having as its foundation equality of all and justice for all, will last for the unforeseeable future.