Moving Nations

July 02, 2013

The Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance moved into full swing today with the first morning worship service (which will occur each morning now through Saturday). The worship time truly offered a global experience. Harry Gardner from Canada led the service and Anthony Carroll the Bahamas preached, with a Bangladeshi Baptist reading a biblical passage in Bengali and a Chilean Baptist reading another passage in Spanish (the photo is one I took of the latter). For the songs during the service, one came from Trinidad and Tobago, one from the Caribbeans in general, and one from Europe. The responsive readings were printed in four languages with all of them being spoken at the same time during those parts of the service. Truly the nations came to worship God. The theme for the service, "Liberating a People," echoed throughout the responsive readings, scriptures, sermon, and songs. This focus naturally brought to attention the conditions and struggles of nations. Following up on this moving experience, I then enjoyed a nice swim in the ocean.

In the afternoon, I attended the Freedom & Justice Commissions Round Table (a joint session of all four commissions). The session focused on the legacy of Sam Sharpe, an enslaved Baptist who played an important role in helping end slavery in Jamaica and across the British Empire. Unlike most slave revolts, his effort (called "the Baptist War") was a nonviolent effort. It ultimately cost Sharpe his life, but the movement caught global attention and moved people in many nations. The panel discussion, titled "Sam Sharpe's legacy and the quest for liberation among Baptists," was moderated by Karen Bullock of the United States. It included three fascinating presentations: "Sam Sharpe: What manner of man was this?" by Delroy Reid-Salmon of the United States, "Sharpe's revolution as paradigm for the struggles of the Jamaican underclass" by Garnett Roper of Jamaica (the photo is one I took of Roper during his presentation), and "Sam Sharpe - And the texts of scripture that motivated him" by Paul Fiddes of the United Kingdom. The presenters offered much to think about regarding Sharpe and how we should live out scripture today.

In the evening, the Jamaican Baptist Union hosted a welcome event offsite. It was nice to leave the resort hotel. We ended up on an old plantation up the mountain a bit on a bumpy, rocky road. Jamaicans treated us to great music, phenomenal food, and short remarks from an impressive group of dignitaries. Among those who spoke were the head of the Jamaican Council of Churches, a member of Parliament who also read remarks from the Prime Minister, and His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen. As the the Governor-General of Jamaica appointed by Queen Elizabeth (who is still considered the head of state in Jamaica as in many other nations no longer part of the British Empire), Allen represents the Queen and has some official duties under the nation's constitution (the photo is one I took of him offering greetings). The global Baptist community clearly caught the attention and respect of Jamaican governmental officials. The food - setup in a fair fashion with different tents - ranged from several different ocean foods, some jerk foods, unusual soups, lots of tasty deserts, and several good drinks like sorrel (their Christmas drink), ginger beer, coffee, and coconut milk (right out of the coconut after it was freshly sliced open with a machete). The legacy of Baptists like Sharpe in moving nations towards freedom seemed at least partly embodied tonight as Baptists from around the world freely fellowshipped together on the plantation lawn. You can see more photos I snapped from all three events here.

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