Where is the vision?
by Baba Elombe Mottley
Bishop Reginald Grant Barrow was the father of Errol Walton Barrow, former Prime Minister of Barbados and one of Barbados National Heroes. He left Barbados for the Virgin Islands in the 1920s and then to New York where he became a member of Marcus Garvey United Negro Improvement Association.
Reggie Barrow was graduated from Codrington College as an Anglican Priest and when he applied for a job at one of the Anglican churches in Barbados, he was told he should go to Africa as a missionary instead.
Sir John Gay Alleyne was founder of what has become known as Mount Gay Rum. He served in the House of Assembly for over 40 years representing the Parish of St. Andrew and when he died, he left a legacy to establish a school to educate poor children in St. Andrew. This school was known as the Alleyne School. The poor children who attended the school were poor whites from the parish. There were six students left at the school when Reggie Barrow took over as headmaster.
As the bishop explained to me, he realised that at the end of two years, he would be out of a job. Fortunately for him, the headmaster was also secretary to the St. Andrew Vestry which had the responsibility for maintaining the School. The Vestry was also responsible for administering the Sir John Gay Alleyne Legacy and Barrow discovered that the planters on the Vestry tapped into the Alleyne Legacy on a regular basis to improve the roads to their own plantations.
Armed with this information, which he copiously copied by hand, Rev Barrow went to all the primary schools in the parish of St. Andrew and selected 40 of the brightest black students to attend the Alleyne School thereby assuring the survival of the school and his job. He never did admit to blackmail, it was a vision. In his 80s, he was still teaching at the Modern High School.
Many planters maintained the Anglican churches in their parishes and oft times there was an unholy relationship between the rector and big planters to the detriment of the slaves and their descendents. To maintain their social status many planters paid for pews to be reserved for them at all times.
Some even had their names etched on brass plates on the row and no one else was permitted to sit in these pews. There is an interesting story of how my brother Elliott and I were ejected from St. Michael’s Cathedral for obeying our father’s instruction to sit in the front of the church. It was the Governor’s pew and we were ejected once. It never happened again as we shared it with Governor and his saddle patch. We later switched to St. Mary’s.
The Anglican Church in Barbados has been the most conservative religious organisation in the Caribbean. Although pioneering education in the late 19th Century in Barbados, it remained for most if not all of the 20th Century, moribund and defensive against the onslaught of other Christian organisations that were able to capture the imagination of the youth.
A lot of the pastoral requirements of parish priests if not totally abandoned, have been delimited by the inability of the church to support its full-time priests with the necessary standard of living becoming of a pastor with two or three university degrees. The result is that these priests have had to fend for themselves in this harsh economic climate by finding alternative employment. I have no doubt that this is justified.
Over the years I have been trying to understand the impact of this on Barbados as a country and to see if I could find a way to suggest to the church programmes to extend its influence that would affect the living culture that is Barbados in a positive way. This influence is primarily based on the tenets of the Ten Commandments. And which in the past was responsible for the core value systems throughout the society.
I was extremely disappointed when the Government of Barbados handed back school buildings to the church and the church could not find uses for these buildings. Some were abandoned and left to vandals, some were torn down to make car parks and others were converted to offices or some other commercial use.
This return was telescoped by the Government when they started with the help I believe of the World Bank to build new primary school facilities across the island. Except for St. Peter and St. Barnabas (they may have been others), I know of no programmes developed to utilise these facilities.
Up until the 1950s, Barbados still possessed an extended family where grandmothers raised their grand children while mothers became apprentices in child rearing. When the industrial projects such as garment manufacturing took place in the early 60s with the expansion of the Bridgetown Port and the then Seawell Airport, many mothers who were trained seamstresses left the home to take these full time jobs in industry or the developing tourism industry.
Increasing standards of living, immigration, better housing contributed to less influence of the grandparents and the community at large on the rearing of children.
Today many children are under-supervised and left on their own. They are free between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Some refer to them as latch key children. They are invariably on their own.
Government’s after school programmes are limited and one only has to look at the Department of Community Development and how Community Centres are used to understand the dilemma that Government faces. These are the first programmes that get cut when austerity issues arise.
Where is the church in all of this? Where is the Anglican Church in particular in this and what can it do to influence the informal education of the youth and create a better society? Here are two ways in which the role of the Anglican Church can impact in an informal way on the attitudes and behaviour of young Bajans,
As you know, you don’t know how much you know until you have to teach someone. I am proposing that the Anglican Church develop a programme where it encourages students to teach other students. Fifth formers can teach fourth formers, fourth can teach thirds, thirds can teach seconds and seconds can teach firsts. This is 121 (One to One).
To help organise the programme, the parish priest would solicit from his congregation a tithing of time. A data base can be prepared of the skills of his congregation so that he can maximise the use of the skills they possess. The tithing can be from one hour to ten hours for retired persons, but I would leave that to them to find what is best.
This programme for marketing purposes and capturing the imagination of youth can be called 12141. If there are no former school buildings available, then the priests can use their empty churches or the nearest primary school.
The Anglican Church needs to partner with top international universities to establish a major university on the lands in St. John. The church must first sell the property to the Government for a dollar to change the conditions of the Trust and then repurchase it for the same amount.
The next step would be to lease the property to Codrington University and solicit the participation of international universities — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, LSE, Oxford, Cambridge, and Sorbonne as well as divinity schools covering all aspects of various religions). Education is an industry worth pursuing!
One of the strengths of the Caribbean is that it is a zone of peace. This is fundamentally so in spite of religious conflicts all over the world, none of which have even remotely attempted to destabilise this peace in the Caribbean.
So my questions to the Anglican Archbishop, Dr John Holder, is
* What do you plan to do with the Anglican Church buildings besides three hours of use a week for Sunday services and a wedding or a funeral here or there during the week?
* How do you plan to maintain these buildings and what is the budget required to do so?
* What do you plan to do with Codrington College and its 790 acres? Will you continue to allow privilege members of your synod and other friends to rent space for little or nothing up in M’Lady’s Passage?
* Do you plan to continue using the church buildings and their graveyards as shrines for visitors and what is the narrative you spin?
* How many of the primary school buildings are currently is use and would you be willing to make them available to young entrepreneurs or for community activities?
* Are you prepared to insist that your priests develop programmes beside choir practice and confirmation classes? If so could you tell us what programmes exist and at which churches?
I have often wondered how the People’s Cathedral, the Spiritual Baptists, Abundant Life, et al, managed to grow at the expense of the Anglican Church. Why? Was it the vision?