By Devon Dick
AS WE celebrate the golden jubilee of Jamaica's political Independence, it is important to recount the role of the Church since 1962 in nation building.
The Jamaican Church, that is, this collective witness and presence, has seen a decline in its membership, influence, and those who identify with the Church.
There has been the development of indigenous denominations over this period rather than Jamaicans being the object of overseas missionary services. We have had such local inspired groups such as Christian Fellowship in Hanover in 1965 by Ronald Hamilton; Deliverance Centre, founded by Bishop Herro Blair in 1978; David Keane's Church on the Rock in 1984; Church of Jesus, founded by Odell Powell in 1995; Al Miller at Fellowship Tabernacle; and James Douglas at Christian Fellowship World Out-reach. This shows that Jamaicans could establish and manage church affairs and church worship.
Sending out missionaries
In addition, Jamaica was not only the object of mission but also sent persons to other parts of the world. For example, the Salvation
This development was reinforced by the return of many missionaries who had large congregations in 1962. These missionaries, rather than accepting Jamaican citizenship, opted for Britain. The two notable exceptions were John Bee in Brown's Town and David Jelleyman at Calabar. This development meant that Jamaicans were now leading large congregations which hitherto was not likely.
The Church has produced many outstanding clergymen who have contributed to the worldwide body including Hugh Sherlock (Methodist); Bishop Besson (New Testament); Neville Callam, Burchell Taylor (Baptist); Paul Gardner (Moravian); Roderick Hewitt (United); Gerry Gallimore (Youth For Christ), etc. We have also had C.S. Reid serving in the Senate, Herro Blair as political ombudsman, and Patrick Allen of the Seventh-day Adventist as governor general.
Deepening media involvement
Churches have also been training their ministers contextually with the formation in 1966 of the United Theological College of the West Indies. This leadership had a better understanding of the Jamaican context.
The Church's involvement in media deepened in 1993 with the establishment of LOVE FM, and later, Love TV. In the 1990s, we had TBC and Roots FM. It was also the period of gospel festivals and dancehall music fused with gospel music
The Church, through the building societies to which it gave birth have facilitated 72,640 housing solutions since the 1960s. And the credit unions, also spawned by the Church, have played a role in economic empowerment.
The Church is responsible for 256 elementary schools, or approximately 32 per cent of elementary schools, in Jamaica. The Church has established Bishop Gibson, St Anne, Edith Dalton, and Black River High as public schools, plus a number of independent schools since 1962.
Since 1962, the Church has a ministry to the less fortunate having established 10 children's homes and six centres for the physically and mentally challenged; nine homes for the aged; and eight shelters for the destitute; and numerous skills training centres to give adults a second chance in life.
The Church has done much, but much more needs to be done, and different methods are required.
Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. Send comments to columns @gleanerjm.com.