Paul Bogle was a Native Baptist Pastor
Paul Bogle (1820-65) is often referred to as a deacon, meaning he was second in command in the church. Perhaps, it is even believed that Bogle was an assistant to an English Baptist missionary. However, Bogle, the leader of the church in Stony Gut, had oversight responsibility for Mount Zion and Sunning Hill. Bogle was also referred to as a "Native Parson" by a newspaper.
In addition, a will of March 9, 1862, spoke to Bogle as a Baptist leader. "I James, and Minna Bryan, do give and bequeath to Mr Paul Bogle, leader of the Stoney Gutt Baptist class, one chain of land square for the purpose of building a class house, and for the benefit of he and his members and followers ..." Bogle was a Baptist leader and had a following.
Bogle was ordained a deacon but it appears that the office of deacon was one of the offices within the pastorate. Richard Warren, who signed his ordination certificate, was ordained as a deacon, which gave him the authority to serve as a minister of the African Episcopal Church. Furthermore, Hon H. Westmoreland, custos, said he did not know the difference between a deacon and a minister among the Baptists. He felt "he [Bogle] is ordained as a deacon and a deacon is a minister". Therefore, Bogle being ordained as a deacon allowed him to serve as a pastor within the Native Baptist Communion.
Bogle's Native Baptist Communion displayed a leadership structure and was well organised. Bogle's ordination certificate, which was signed by Warren and George William Gordon, as president and acting secretary, respectively, said "and in all things to be obedient to the rules of the church". The church was an organisation with a president, secretary and rules.
Bogle as pastor did not confine his responsibility to the congregation but was pastor of the community. As pastor, he was politically active. His chapel was a place where anti-slavery material was distributed and a meeting place to discuss protest actions against the injustices in the society. Bogle was a member of the Anti-Slavery Society, which contributed money to the parent body in London.
In addition, he was chairman of the Liberal School Society, which was a political movement to support Gordon's candidacy for political office. Bogle borrowed money from Gordon and this loan of £150 was to enable 100 taxpayers to qualify for the voting franchise and be placed on the electoral roll. Bogle's understanding of his role as pastor was to be involved in the society.
Bogle's Native Baptist Communion was independent of the English Baptists, whether in England or Jamaica. Nevertheless, Bogle's church used English hymns and utilised the scholarship of Isaac Watts, writer of such hymns as When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
Some have claimed the Native Baptists would be synonymous with Obeah, Myal, Kumina, Convince and Revival but the major sources from which to glean Bogle's beliefs and practices should be his letters and speech as recorded in the Jamaica Royal Commission Report and a marked hymn book, which was found on his body after his execution. This was an edition of The Psalms of David, with the supplementary hymns by the Reverend Isaac Watts. It can be assumed that the markings in Bogle's hymnal were indicative of hymns most meaningful and important to his situation.
As we celebrate another Emancipation Day, it is good to remember that Bogle was an outstanding leader, seeing his role as pastor as not being confined to his local congregation but to the entire community who were suffering repression and injustices.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.