By Devon Dick
THE 2011 census claims there are approximately two million Jamaicans who identify with the Church (Garnett Roper, Analysing the Census, October 28, 2012) compared to half million in 1871; three-quarter million in 1921 and a little over one million in 1991. This means that in terms of aggregate number of adherents, the Jamaican Church, as a collective presence, continues to grow rapidly.
Some have concluded that because the adherents of the Church as a percentage of total population has declined it meant the Church is declining. A similar mistake was made about the general election of 2011. In that election, we had the largest turnout ever of voters, but many commentators concluded that it was the lowest turnout of voters because, as a percentage of the number of persons registered, there was a decline.
The Church should be congratulated on growing its adherents and being the largest single organisation, larger than trade unions, political parties and service clubs.
However, the worrying trend is that there is a growing bloc of persons who do not identify with the Church, and the methodology to engage those persons might not be our regular evangelistic crusades and worship services but might include apologetics.
And finally, the Jamaican Church has the numbers but seems to lack the influence on governance and personal conduct based on systemic corruption, persistent poverty and sexual molestation of the young and women.
In economic empowerment, the Jamaican Church eight years after 1834 established 200 free villages on 100,000 acres of land.
The Jamaican Church continues to make a significant contribution in education, primarily because of the investment of the past. The Church built 600 primary schools, 43 public high schools and most of the teachers' colleges but not many since Independence in 1962. There is still a need for classroom space at all levels in order to deliver quality education to males and females.
Thankfully, many congregations offer skills training programmes, homes for the aged and disadvantaged, dental clinics and medical clinics etc.
Rev Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of The Cross and the Machete, and Rebellion to Riot. Send comments to email@example.com.