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Burchell baptist church-St-James-Jamaica

140th Anniversary of the Zion Hill Baptist Church

There is a big picture about each element of the Topic: the Baptist Church, Education, Liberation of Jamaica as a people, and Jamaica as a country. As a believer in Jesus the Christ as Savior and Lord and as a science teacher who incorporates history in my work, and reads it for enjoyment, I have approached this presentation from three perspectives. First, that the Eternal, Invisible, Infinite God is working His purpose out in ways that we cannot fully understand. Second, facts matter even if they are inconvenient. Third, time and place are critical because they provide context to God’s workings and historical facts and sequence.

The Big Picture: Jamaica as Colony and Country

Jamaica has always been on the frontier of modern development since 1655, both as a colony and as a country. This is true of having a money economy, its form of governance, holding elections, the clash of cultures, the quest for freedom, seeking opportunity, and becoming somebody. To think of Jamaica as an ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ or ‘third world’ country with the goal to be developed, is to be misled by an external formulation. If Jamaica is to be liberated as a country, this mindset has to change or our present and our future will languish in our past.

The Big Picture of The Jamaican People

The Jamaican people are a unique amalgam. Jamaicans are as a peculiar variant of White Anglo Saxon Protestant dominant culture opposed by dissenting Protestants of Britain mixed with Western African cultures of the Akan peoples of Ghana, the Ibo and Ibibio peoples of Nigeria, peoples of West Central Congo, who constitute the majority of the population, along with an indigenous mixture of those called mulattoes, as well as Jews and Christian Lebanese refugees of religious persecution, and indentured servants from China and India. We are a mixed-up set of Old-World peoples in the process of becoming one humanity at home and abroad.

The Big Picture of Liberation

Liberation implies denial of freedom. The two greatest denials of freedom in Jamaica’s history have been: i) denial of personal freedom in slavery; and ii) denial of national sovereignty by colonialism. The enslaved in Jamaica repeatedly and consistently rebelled, more than in any other colony. What is not often discussed are alliances among the free and divisions among the enslaved. During slavery, the society was divided by Constitution and law into free and slave. The Maroons, of Akan heritage, fought for and were granted autonomy by Treaties of 1739. This further divided the people of African ancestry, particularly the Akan, and expanded the free, especially by military alliance in case of foreign invasion, and rebellion or run-away by the enslaved. The Tacky Rebellion, Coromantee War, of 1760/61 was the first major test of this alliance of the free. Members of the alliance were the British army, local militias of free men of all complexions, and Maroons. Tacky and Apongo who led the rebellion were Akan. Akan fought Akan.

The Big Picture of Baptist Beginnings in Jamaica

Baptists were among evangelical Christians who became allies of the enslaved. Baptists came to Jamaica in January 1783 in the persons of African American Rev George Liele, George Gibbs, and George Lewis from the Southern Colonies and Moses Baker, from New York. All were evacuated by the British navy after the American War of Independence. They joined the free-men class of the Jamaican society but became part of a different segment of free men. Their passion was spreading the Good News of the Gospel not personal advancement. There were whites who were hostile to them and whites who were friendly and gave assistance. They accepted assistance where it served their purpose to build the Kingdom of God and not money.

The Big Picture of Education

Education can be conceived narrowly as formal schooling or more broadly as raising consciousness knowledge or a path of upward social mobility in escaping persistent poverty. The Gospel and education were subversive to slavery. They afflicted the consciences of some slaveholders and frightened others, even by hymns.

Progressive Interacting Details

From this starting point, I will trace progressive interacting details which include the founding of the Zion Hill Baptist Church 140 years ago.

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