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Groups tour


theologians, teachers, pastors and others from 40 countries were in Jamaica for the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering from July 1-6 in the north coast town of Ocho Rios. A group of 16 participants attending the Gathering took the opportunity to tour a number of historical sites signifi cant to Baptists on the Caribbean island. Visits were made to the site of the


M


fi rst Baptist church in western Jamaica, founded in 1791 by Moses Baker, a former African American slave who had moved to the island. Baptist witness had begun in Jamaica in 1783 under the leadership of


ore than 400 Baptist


Jamaican Historical Sites & Projects leaders,


another African American, George Liele, who planted the fi rst church in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. Locations and


deacon


associated Jamaican


with National


Baptist Hero


Samuel Sharpe were part of the tour. These included Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay where Sharpe was a deacon and where it is believed his remains are interred under the pulpit; as well as Sam Sharpe Square in the heart of the city where there is a monument in his honor and another monument listing the names of those who were punished for their roles in the slave revolt that Sharpe led in the 1830s.


Jamaica New Testament P The group went to the William Knibb


Memorial Baptist Church in Falmouth, named after perhaps the most well known missionary to Jamaica who was at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement in the former British colony. Another stop was made at Calabar, site


of what is believed to be the fi rst Baptist theological college for black pastors in the western hemisphere. The school was founded in 1843 and later closed its doors to join theological training


institutions


of other Christian traditions to create the United Theological College of the West Indies in 1966.


Enthusiastically Received by International Baptists


articipants at the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering heard the story of the process leading to the publication of


the Jamaica New Testament (JNT), the fi rst translation of the New Testament in the heart language of most Jamaicans, whose country’s offi cial language is English. Jamaican, sometimes called patois, is a Creole language. Its


vocabulary is a unique mix of English words and the languages used in the countries from which enslaved Africans were transported to Jamaica. The grammatical structure refl ects that of the African languages indigenous to the enslaved. It emerged during the period when enslaved blacks from different language regions of Africa, mostly from West Africa, needed to fi nd a way to communicate with one another in their new home, Jamaica. In publications that appeared in 1961 and 1967, Jamaica-born scholar, Frederic Cassidy, introduced a Jamaican orthography. This is the form utilized by the translators of the JNT.


Courtney Stewart, executive secretary of the Bible Society of


the West Indies (BSWI), said the project “is a catalyst for national liberation/emancipation, both religiously and socially.” He stated that “the translation into Jamaican of the written Word about the living Word speaks to an incarnation of God in the reality of ordinary Jamaicans.” It makes God “accessible to the Jamaican people.” The translation, Stewart declared, “Mirrors the translation


of God’s eternal Word into a specifi c sub-group of humanity.” Furthermore, “the translation of the Scriptures into Jamaican will lead the way in liberating the language by causing it to take on a standardized form in order to take on new roles or be used in formal domains.” Jamaican educator and writer, Faith Linton, a leading advocate for the JNT project, drew evidence from research conducted in Linguistics and Neuroscience to urge recognition of the critical role of the mother tongue in human development. Linton asserted that the failure to teach Jamaicans in their heart language may be at


10 BAPTIST WORLD MAGAZINE


the root of the literacy problem in the country. Locating the JNT project in the need for Jamaicans to be educated in the


mother tongue and the


teaching of English as a second language, Linton asserted that the JNT “could become a catalyst for change.”


Drawing upon anecdotal evidence,


Linton made a case for the positive reception and effect of the use of the JNT. She concluded that “the JNT has sparked a movement which, by the working of the Holy Spirit, could bring to the Jamaican people a measure of healing and spiritual renewal beyond what one could ask or think.” Noel Erskine, Jamaica-born professor of theology and ethics


Courtney Stewart, executive secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, displays a copy of the Jamaica New Testament at the BWA Annual Gathering


at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in the United States, and Everton Jackson, executive secretary/treasurer of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, welcomed the JNT. Erskine praised the BSWI for undertaking the project, locating the decision to produce the JNT in th e BSWI’s appreciation for the enculturation of the Gospel. Timothy George, chair of the BWA Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity and founding dean and president of the Beeson Seminary, Samford University in the US, described the session on the JNT as one of the best sessions he had organized during the 2010-2015 BWA quinquennium. Copies of the JNT are available in print and audio formats through the following websites: www.biblesocietywi.org ; www. Bible.Is ; www.youversion.com . The JNT should soon become available on multiple platforms through www.amazon.com

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