Sun | Feb 16, 2020

Devon Dick | Alfred Reid a man of courage and compassion

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:23 AM
The Rt Rev Alfred Reid, then Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, leads then Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams towards the National Arena for a special church service in May 2009.

Late last year, Alfred Reid (1937-2019), 13th Bishop of Jamaica and Cayman islands, was laid to rest. He was a man of courage and compassion.

Reid was a courageous leader. In 1973, Father Alfred Reid, rector of the St Jude’s Church, in the suburbs of Stony Hill, commissioned a bronze Negroid crucifix which portrayed Jesus the Christ as a black man. This was during the Michael Manley administration when there was a resurgence of black pride and veneration of things African. This bold masterpiece by sculptor Christopher Gonzales offended many in the congregation who were accustomed to seeing Jesus as a Caucasian. By the 1990s, this artwork was rejected and vilified as inappropriate by members of the said congregation. Reid provided me with a picture of that bronze Negroid crucifix, which is displayed in Rebellion to Riot: the Jamaican Church in Nation Building (p 100). Reid was way ahead of his time.

He was the chair of the committee that published The Church in the Province of the West Indies Anglican Hymnal, which includes Jah is my Keeper, composed by Rastafarian reggae artiste Peter Tosh. Reid would have been proud to know that Jah is my Keeper was played at the Canterbury Cathedral in England during the installation of Jamaica-born Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Montego Bay High School for Girls past student, as Bishop of Dover. Paradoxically, there are Jamaican clergy and members who are uncomfortable with the playing of Jah is my Keeper. Reid commissioned Willy Lindo to compose a Reggae Mass; a mass where the music is to the rhythm of reggae.

Reid was not bishop at the time when he was a part of the cultural renaissance in art to free Jamaicans from British colonial forms and to reflect more Jamaican realities and experiences. He did not need the office of bishop to accomplish those revolutionary feats; all he had was a heart of steel.

INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES

Surprisingly, at the funeral service for the venerable bishop, neither J ah is my Keeper nor a Reggae Mass was used. Perhaps, it is not that surprising because in 2006 at the funeral for cultural icon, Louise Bennett, the service was not predominantly in the Jamaican language. The courage of our cultural icons is interred with their bones.

In 2012, Reid’s courage was again on display during the visit of Africa-born Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, to Jamaica. At a gathering, Sentamu was asked what was his position on lodges. He started to state that it was incompatible with Christianity when Reid stopped him in his tracks.

Reid was a compassionate person with a warm heart to persons from different denominations. Three years ago, he did a brilliant presentation at the Jamaica Baptist Union’s School of Ministry in elucidating the topic of Living the Sacrificial Life.

Some years ago, he was the guest preacher at an anniversary service of Boulevard Baptist Church. As part of the service, there was Holy Communion. I was mindful that Anglicans cannot share bread and wine with Baptists and was making allowance for him. To my surprise, Reid participated in our Lord’s Supper. He was courageous and compassionate. In addition, Reid was the consummate host, along with his wife, Gloria, at their Christmas parties.

People are usually courageous or compassionate but seldom both. They are willing to confront principalities and power but often lacking compassion. Or they are compassionate, very willing to help persons who are afflicted but are timid to confront evil and be a trailblazer. However, Reid was both courageous and compassionate.

Perhaps the secret to Reid being both courageous and compassionate was because he spent much time speaking with God and seeking the will of God.

Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church and author of the recently published Enduring Advocacy for a Better Jamaica, in addition to The Cross and the Machete and Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building. Send feedback to comments@gleanerjm.com