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Whither goeth the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Community?

Rev. Teacher Hazel Ann Gibbs DePeza

 

Baptists, where we come from? We come from the land of trial.

Baptists, where we going? We going to Canaan land.

 

 

 

The age old saying claims that you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from. Therefore, I preface my answer to the question by behaving like the sankofa bird, looking back while going forward. The trumpet proclaims we come from the land of trial, and indeed, trials and tribulations marked the path we trod. Brought to these shores without our consent and against our will, via the trans Atlantic trade, we were enslaved, emasculated, denuded, and dispossessed.

 

Earl Lovelace in his book Wine of Astonishment chronicles our suffering this way “God don’t give you more than you could bear. Cause for hundreds of years we bearing what He send like the earth bear the hot sun and the rains and the dew and the cold, and the earth is still the earth, still here for man to build house on and fall down on, still sending up shoots and flowers and growing things… Is because we could bear it. Is because out of all the shoulders in the world our shoulders could bear more weight, and out of all the flesh in the world, our flesh could hold more pain, and out of all the hearts in the world, our heart could stomach more ache, without breaking or burning or bursting than any shoulder or flesh or heart”.

 

Leonard Barrett in his book Soul Force describes our survival as the consequence of soul force, which he describes as, “that power of the black man which turns sorrow into joy, crying into laughter, and defeat into victory. It is patience while suffering, determination while frustrated and hope while in despair. It derives its impetus from the ancestral heritage of Africa”.

 

 Then, when God started to give us beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair, they passed the Prohibition Order. We were outlawed for finding solace in praising God to the pulsating rhythm of Africa, we were beaten for shouting our praises in a joyful noise to the Lord, we were jailed for dancing in the spirit to express our joy, and we were fined for sharing the Word with passion and power, and for touching black people soul. But that did not daunt the spirit of our fore-parents. They just never got weary.  

 

Although the entire village came to us to cure their ailments and to pray away their ills, we were ostracized and our value to society denied. But, like the early Christians in apostolic times, the further we were forced into the forest to hide, the more we spread like wild fire, the greater the persecution, the stronger the resolution, firm in the conviction that “weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning”. Note that we were “troubled on every side, yet not distressed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4: 8,9).

 

Today, the Spiritual/Shouter Baptist community, still present 90 years after the passing of the Prohibition Ordinance to render our practices illegal, still vibrant 56 years after the repeal of that same ordinance liberating us to worship freely in the beauty of holiness, is still growing and developing 11 years after the official recognition of our struggle and fortitude by the granting of a public holiday, and the subsequent granting of land. We stand now poised to enter our Canaan land.

 

We have proven our strength. We have demonstrated our resilience. We have preserved our heritage. We have forged our love of liberty in the fires of undying hope, unwavering faith, and unceasing prayer. We have come too far from where we started from to turn back now. We don’t believe God has brought us this far to leave us.

 

 The Oni of Ife, Sijuwade, Oba Kunade, Olubase11, noted, “it is what a man has which should be the source of his glory. We have many things we can use as our springboard to glory.”

 

We now have, registered and incorporated organizations, beautiful and comfortable edifices for worship and institutions of learning, cassettes and compact discs and published and copyrighted writings, business enterprises, radio programmes on various frequencies. We now have, scholarship programmes that have distributed over the last ten years in excess of ¼ million dollars of awards to Spiritual and Shouter Baptist children, national/island scholarship winners, entrepreneurs, professionals, parliamentarians, and scholars. We now have national, regional and international recognition and acknowledgement. As a collective the Spiritual/Shouter Baptist community is well endowed, “the lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places. Yea, we have a goodly heritage. We will bless the Lord who hath given us counsel; we have set the Lord always before us, because He is at our right hand. We shall not be moved.” (Ps. 16: 6, 8).

 

Now to answer the question directly: We are going from strength to strength, strong in the knowledge of our history, the wisdom of our ancestors, the promise of our youth, and the grace and mercy of our God. We are going towards the victory of unity in diversity. We are going to change his-story and tell our story. His-story recorded us as destitute, distorted, disreputable and divided. Our story recorded us as defiant, determined, diligent, and distinguished.

 

We are going to tell our story that “as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many are one body,” so the many organizations are the many members in the one body, the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community. “For the body is not one member, but many. And if the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?...If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?...  Now are they many members, yet but one body…And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (Excerpts from chapter 12 of the book of 1st. Corinthians)

 

We are going to tell our story that our children are an heritage of the Lord, so we will tend them like olive plants round about our table, training them up in the way they should go, that when they are old they will not depart from the Faith, and we shall see the blessings of the Lord upon our children and our children’s children. We are the stone which the builders rejected which has become the head stone of the corner.

 

I submit therefore, that the Spiritual/Shouter Baptist community goeth forward and upward, amidst these perilous and uncertain times, thankful to God for his mercies and to all our benefactors and supporters, holding on to the balance wheel, standing on the solid rock, guided by our chart and compass, mindful of the admonition of Paul to the Phillipians, and purposing therefore,  “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise” to think on these things, for as a man thinketh so is he. And, reaching forth unto those things that are before us we press toward the mark.