By Devon Dick
RECENTLY, I was relating to the newly elected deacons of Boulevard Baptist Church some life lessons I learnt from the Reverend Clement Gayle, my tutor while I was at the United Theological College (UTC).
Gayle was always willing to give a second opportunity. Therefore, if we missed one of our early-morning worship services that were held during the week, he would make a mental note and wait until we slip up another time before he acted. This is a good example to follow whether one is a boss, deacon, parent, etc. It is disconcerting and demotivating to highlight and comment on every mistake.
Gayle wrote George Liele: Pioneer Missionary to Jamaica (1982). This book was to mark the bicentennial of Baptist work and witness in Jamaica and Gayle can be credited with reminding Baptists that the work did not start with English Baptists but with Liele, a person of African descent. Gayle has caused Baptists to embrace Liele and now they are in an annual lecture in memory of Liele. Unfortunately, there is no church named after Liele, the founder of Baptist work in Jamaica. Others of lesser achievement have that honour.
Gayle has had a major influence on me in terms of the choice of topics for seminal works. One day after receiving the top grade on a study on Martin Luther, the great German reformer, I told Gayle that I wanted to do postgraduate work on Luther. He asked me if I knew German. He also reminded me of the number of books already written on Luther.
APPRECIATING CHURCH HISTORY
With that, my world moved from Europe to Jamaica. I have done research on the Baptist National Heroes Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon. In addition, I have chronicled the main beliefs and practices of our folk religion and also to unearth the Native Baptists, who played an important role in the development of Christianity in Jamaica, which is yet to be appreciated. Gayle, by word and example, has helped us to appreciate our Jamaican church history.
While the Baptist Warden at UTC, Gayle was one of the greatest sermon critics. He was fearless and objective in his analysis of the preaching of students and well-known expositors. He influenced hundreds of preachers throughout the West Indies and is known as one who will give his opinion to your face rather than whisper behind your back. Even of my most recently book, The Cross and the Machete, he said the introduction was too long, and that message, he gave to me directly.
It is clear that we learnt many lessons from Gayle, many of which were outside the classroom. Speak of a punctual person, a stickler for discipline and one who had the students' interest at heart, and we all know you are speaking of Gayle. His wife, Ruby, of blessed memory, would teach us etiquette and how to conduct ourselves and to eat and drink according to British standards. It is important that teachers realise that what is taught outside the classroom is just as important as what is taught inside. This point was re-empathised last Wednesday by P.J. Patterson, former prime minister and Calabar Old boy, at a Calabar centenary lecture.
Clement Gayle hails from Westmoreland of humble beginnings and has always been proud of his parish of birth. He has been influential to varying degrees in the ministerial formation of hundreds of ministers of religion in various denominations; some of whom have gone on to become heads of denomination and Neville Callam and Dr Paul Gardner to head their respective worldwide bodies.
Gayle, who is now retired, lives in St Ann, and we, who sat at his feet, have learnt many life lessons and consider him an unsung hero.
The Reverend Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'Rebellion to Riot' and 'The Cross and the Machete'. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.