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Jacqueline Young says 'Amen'

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Presentation of a cheque for J$500,000 by Jacqueline Young (right) being made to Dr Kathleen Monteith, head of the Department of History and Archaeology, University of the West Indies, Mona. The funds will be used to enhance research studies for students. - Contributed

Ainsley Henriques, Contributor

The historical pictorial is aptly titled Amen by its conceptualiser, author, primary photographer and publisher, Jacqueline Young. The description of the work could end right here with the title, Amen. So what is the word? It collectively means 'verily', 'truly' or even 'in strong agreement with a statement'. As this story unfolds, you will join at the end with the word of the title.

This collection of studies is not just of photographs of religious buildings, a comprehensive collection of our rich religious heritage, but also the histories of these buildings. In compiling the stories of each building, the author precedes the pictures with background history of the major denominations to contextualise her work of photographing the buildings. These short, but accurate, histories are a treasure to be found in one publication.

These histories are also her own acknowledgment of her family history as to who she is today and the values she inherited that lead her to this magnum opus. Her belief in her fellow man stems from these legacies, from her grandmother's mentor and from her grandmother herself.

Her pictorial and historical synopses of the churches are placed in our geographical regions, the counties initially, Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey and then by parish rather than by denomination. All her reproduced photographs are in colour.

These remarkable pictures are not just of external imagery but take us inside the buildings themselves. They highlight architectural features and other images, in many cases unique to each and, most likely, treasured by their congregations.

She closes the section on buildings with images of those that we are losing; the buildings in ruin. It is a sad reflection that these edifices can no longer be maintained by their congregations. It is expensive, but there is also a desire for modernity to replace the legacies of our forebears. The pleas coming from these images are ones of 'do not forget us in the so-called march to progress. Maintain us if you can and, at worst, preserve us as we are today, we are a part of Jamaica's national monuments'.

The blessed things

Jacqueline Young does not forget the iconic objects that adorn our various sites of worship. She highlights in the last, but short section, the Blessed Things: the baptismal fonts, the lecterns and pulpits, pictures of unsung heroes - names we can recall but cannot place in context of our past in most cases, rederos or decorations usually placed behind the altar, sculptures and monuments, stained-glass windows and closes with pictures of church interiors.

This is not just a book of observations but a set of experiences that we can enjoy repeatedly. It will be impossible to absorb all the details and stories of each in one viewing.

It is a must-read for all Jamaicans, a legacy for all our children. It is indeed an Amen!