Century-old Bibles shine guiding light for Hickling Gordon
Cultural advocate treasures family heirlooms
Four ageing Bibles dating back to the 1800s are among the most valued possessions in the century-old Connolley house and serve as compasses for those who have lived within its walls, including cultural and creative industries expert Dr Deborah Hickling Gordon, who now stands as guardian.
The Connolley Avenue home in Kingston still holds rich cultural and religious value, which has been passed on through three generations of God-fearing women.
Filled with lots of memories – from weddings to a tradition of having stew peas every Saturday evening and the echoing sounds of music classes taught by her great grandmother – Hickling Gordon continues to cherish the home and her ancestor’s legacy.
Hickling Gordon is the great-great-granddaughter of Fedrick Bond and Maggie Clarke, who she said originally owned the home in the 1800s, which they left behind with not only a legacy of life’s work, but the instalment of faith as the backbone of their family.
The ageing Bibles, which have been preserved by Hickling Gordon, her mother, and her grandmother, are filled with photographs and scribblings of stand-out quotes from notable scriptures as well as the names of her grandmother’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Other deep thoughts are also found within the pages, serving as a reminder that her grandmother was always in prayer for her family.
As Bibles represent personal belongings and are a solace for many who find comfort in the word of God, Gordon Hickling told The Gleaner that the representation of family is of major importance to her.
This, coupled with belief in the African notion that her ancestors will always live in her presence where she must remain in contact with them in spirit as they continue to guide her path in life, has kept her grounded.
“We have been grounded in spirituality,” she said of her family life.
Her maternal and paternal great-grandparents and grandparents were also heavily involved in the Presbyterian Church, and as the generations grew, faith continued to be a focal point in family life.
Many religious fascinations and explorations led to family members delving into the Jehovah’s Witness denomination and even into Rastafarianism, but their Christian roots have remained with them.
“I am clear about the doctrines of Christianity, and I am clear about the doctrines of the Bible, and I am clear that there are pathways that they lead us down that it is important that we adhere to as a society and as individuals,” said Hickling Gordon.
These, she noted, shape important aspects of our lives and as the religious celebrations of the birth of Christ draw nearer, Hickling Gordon is hoping that Jamaicans will pay more attention to the legacies of their kin and share stories of the evolution of their family life.
She is encouraging families to draw closer and reach out – particularly to those who have not been in regular contact throughout the year – and get involved in spreading the Christmas cheer in their communities.
“It’s community and love, and it’s a time where people can take a break, get off their feet, bring their loved ones together [and] celebrate,” she said of the meaning of Christmas.
“Whether you are Christian or whether you’re Hindu, Muslim, or whether you are going to be into Kwanzaa this year, what is really important is ensuring that we’re all working in tandem with these universal themes, and maybe then we would have a different sort of society,” she said.
Her wish this year is not seasonal, she told The Gleaner, describing it as an “ever-going-forward wish” for Jamaica.
“I want to see Jamaicans become aware of themselves in the sort of way that allows them to stand as confident, positive citizens of the world,” Hickling Gordon said, adding that visionary leadership can build the necessary confidence to allow Jamaicans to see the value in themselves at the table of life, which is large enough for everyone to have a seat with equal opportunities.