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Jamaica Theological Seminary gets into spirit of Reggae Month

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Dr Garnett Roper, head of the Jamaica Theological Seminary
Visitors to the island from left: Aga Bialon, Berni Hrisztu and Charlotte Nehm could not miss out on the Reggae Month celebrations.

On Saturday, the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS) on West Avenue, St Andrew, will move into the mood of Reggae Month 2018 with a symposium themed, 'Caribbean Theology and the Church's Mission'.

Dr Garnett Roper, head of the JTS, told The Gleaner, it is the first time that the organisation is staging an event of this nature to mark the month, which is especially dedicated to Jamaica's popular music.

Roper said that music genres such as reggae and jazz, among many others, have their own cultural identity and self-expression. However, within the Jamaican evangelical tradition - in which the symposium is being held - sacred music is generally consistently associated with European forms, while indigenous Jamaican music forms would fall in the non-sacred.

"The symposium is like a crossroads, trying to catch up with the rest of the world," Roper said.

The activities run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and include performances by Alexander Martin-Blanken, CREW 40:4's Performing Arts team and the JTS Band, along with special artistes.

This is against the background of a surge in the production and acceptance of reggae and dancehall Christian gospel songs. However, Roper said that some songs in that vein are a matter of trying to prove what the performer can do, to exoticise the music.

" There was a point", he said, "where songs were an avenue for the pursuit of social justice".

Roper is on the day's second panel, along with Public Theology student Nicholas Smith, and Bertram Gayle, who leads the translation team for the Jamaican New Testament.

As the organisation's head, facing an audience where there are sure to be many JTS students, hierarchy does not come into play.

"They can question me about anything," Roper said. "There is no sanction for arguing an issue with me. It will not have any residual effect."

At an organisation where context is very important to the education experience, Roper said 'Caribbean Theology and the Church Mission' "is an attempt to have the theological discussion in a context", that context being especially relevant to Caribbean people.