The Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way-Tree Road was alive with the colours and sounds of Jamaica on Sunday (Jan. 29), as the country’s leaders, clerics, dignitaries and congregants came together to praise the Almighty for 50 years of nationhood.
The event was part of the year-long ‘Jamaica 50’ celebration, to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s Independence this year, which is being observed under the theme: ‘Feel the Heart and Soul of a Nation’.
It was organised by the Committee for the Promotion of National Religious Services (CPNRS) in collaboration with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC).
The church, which was renovated in 1997 to seat a 700-member congregation, could not contain the large number of persons, who gathered for the day of praise and worship, as extra chairs had to be provided for seating inside and outside the church.
The service began at 3:30 p.m. with 50 clerics from various denominations, symbolic of the 50 years since Jamaica became an independent nation, marching from the intersection of Oxford and Half-Way-Tree Roads to the church. They were attired in ministerial robes and carried religious symbols.
A combined mass band of the Webster Boy’s and Girl’s Brigade and Seventh- Day Adventist Pathfinders, led the procession into the church yard, which was adorned with the national colours at about 3:45 p. m; for the formal start for the service at
The two-hour long function, which was addressed by Archbishop of York, Rev. Dr. John Sentamu, was interspersed with special renditions and performances from a number of groups, including a combined mass choir involving members of the Jamaica Folk Singers and the Jamaica Youth Chorale.
The JCDC Performing Arts winners, students from Glenmuir High School in Clarendon, and a combination of choirs from various primary schools from across the corporate area, also performed.
Scripture reading , taken from Psalm 33, verses one to 22 was read by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, while Opposition Spokesperson on Information, Public Service and Labour, Senator Arthur Williams, who represented Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, read St. John 17, verses one to 11.
Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen and Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna brought greetings, while host pastor, Rev. Astor Carlyle, welcomed the gathering.
In his address, Rev. Sentamu called on Jamaicans to live in unity, love their fellowmen and promote true spiritual accord in spite of the differences and views on some doctrinal matters.
“So beloved Jamaicans, let your life be filled with truth, be filled with love, be filled with justice. This will give you peace and prosperity for all Jamaicans, and you will be judged as a nation by how well you treat the weak, the vulnerable, the unemployed, the young and the older people,” he urged.
Chairman of the CPNRS and General Secretary for the Jamaica Council of Churches, Rev. Gary Harriot told JIS News that he was pleased with the event. “It was a wonderful experience and we are happy that we made the decision to come here (Webster),” he said.
He informed that the procession of clerics represented the seven church umbrella groups in Jamaica, namely: Jamaica Council of Churches; Jamaica Full Gospel Churches; Jamaica Association of Evangelicals; Jamaica Pentecostal Union Apostolic; Church of God in Jamaica; Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; and Independent Churches of Jamaica.
Elder of the Webster Memorial United Church, and communications consultant, Elaine Commissiong, said the service was “truly a celebration… to thank God for all that was accomplished over the past 50 years despite the challenges”.
“We acknowledge the fact that we have had challenges but we express the thought that challenges only made us stronger and made us more determined to persevere. We do need these challenges and there are many other things to celebrate, the name that we have abroad, the people who have earned for Jamaica a great reputation,” she stated.
Another member of the church, Ruthlyn Johnson, who brought a friend to the service, said she enjoyed every moment, especially the praise and worship session.
“It was beautiful. When I came I thought I was early, but it was so jam-packed. I was still dancing and singing until they came and give us two chairs and I enjoyed every moment of it,” she said with a smile.
A member of the St. George’s Anglican Church located downtown Kingston, who did not give her name, said she had no problem attending another church, noting that it was an ecumenical service. “We are supposed to be followers of the same one God, one faith, one church, one Lord and I’m happy I came,” she told JIS News.
By Elaine Hartman Reckord, JIS PRO