“The two main Maroon groups were the Trelawny Town or Leeward Maroons – led by Cudjoe – and the Windward Maroons – led by Queen Nanny and later by Quao. The Maroons were skilled hunters and warriors and, hard as they tried, the British Army could not control or defeat them. They fought against slavery and for Jamaican independence from the British. Many of them were deported in 1796 to Nova Scotia Canada and eventually to Sierra Leone. To this day, the Maroons in Jamaica are to a large extent autonomous and separate from Jamaican culture.”
Although my Christian beliefs today are strong, my walk with God over the years has been up and down, but He is forever faithful and I know I am alive and blessed due to Him. It is also important to acknowledge that my “whole” being has been shaped by cultural, political and intellectual factors as well as my spirituality. I didn’t grow up in heaven. I don’t currently live in paradise. I therefore cannot discount the experiences, both positive and negative, that those of African descent in Jamaica, Canada, North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa etc. have encountered. Not only in the past but also today! AND not only within society at large, but more specifically within Christianity! I am also refering to my own personal experiences!
The result of these experiences have fostered in me a worldview, where although I am a Christian, culturally, ideologically, socially and politically, I acknowledge my African heritage. As I state in the title of this blog, I am an Afrocentric Pentecostal. Now I know that Paul writes in Galatians 3: 28: “There is Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ”. Noble words no doubt, but the reality of the practice of Christianity by those of European descent, when it comes to those of us of African descent, in some ways makes those words hypocritical at best, if not hollow at the very least…. (I also acknowledge the mistreatment of Native Americans and other people of color around the world and throughout history, as well as the mistreatment of “us” by the practitioners of Islam!).
So along with developing my relationship with God, I also reaffirmed, embraced and continuously studied African, African-American, Black history and culture. Two events were instrumental in shaping my metamorphosis as an Afrocentric Pentecostal. The first was reading “A Black Theology of Liberation” by James H. Cone. It opened my eyes that the Eurocentric ideology and practice of the Christianity of my Grandparents and Mother wasn’t the only way. In fact for those of us of African descent, it was both counter-productive and oppressive. History itself has provided uncompromising and convicting evidence of that fact. The second was God fulfilling a promise He made to me. Psalms 37:4 states: “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” I reminded God of this promise and that it was the “desire of my heart” to make a pilgrimage to West Africa, to see my ancestral home. In 1997, He fulfilled this promise and I was able to visit the Kormance region of Ghana where historically, this was the region where African slaves were stolen and transplanted to Jamaica. At that moment I was overcome by “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) within my soul (I could even say, “ my spirit”). I had this overwhelming sense that I had fulfilled the “desires of the heart” of my ancestors (whose blood flowed through my own heart), by bringing their spirits back home. A home they had “desired” to return to like Kunta Kinte in Roots. I was able to stand in the slave castle where my ancestors stood. In the actual cells, before they were taken through “the door of no return”. Standing there touched me spiritually in a way words cannot describe.
Both of these events initiated a transformation in how I viewed the society I lived in and how I practiced my religion, and therefore my relationship with God. I made one very significant decision based on these experiences. I made a conscious decision that I would only be a member of a Caribbean/African based church and that my Pastor had to be Black. In my mind, ONLY a spiritual leader who was of African descent could truly understand and appreciate what I go through daily, in my Christian walk as a Man of African descent in this Eurocentric society. In my mind, ONLY a spiritual leader who was of African descent could guide and advise me adequately for my own spiritual benefit. In my spirit, I was content with this decision. I had no issue with visiting churches led by white Pastors and even being blessed by their message. Actually white Pastors and Evangelists periodically came to preach in the Black church where I was a member and I had no problem with that. But as far as I was concerned, they didn’t have the capacity to spiritually lead me, a Man of African descent on a continual basis. This was my way of thinking for approximately 10 years.
For various personal reasons, in the Fall of 2005, I left the Black church where I was a member for about 6 years and started attending a church lead by a white Pastor. The main reason I will reveal though was that I needed a spiritual revival. No church is perfect but I had reached a point in my walk with God, in my relationship with Him, where I needed more spiritually than culturally, and I wasn’t getting that at the church I was attending. I could have found another Black led church and I actually visited a few. But I asked God to lead me to a place where He wanted me to be and he led me there. At the time I thought “hmmmm… what is going on here”? Why would God lead me here?” Although the church’s congregation was primarily white, it had a substantial culturally mixed congregation for that city. However the longer I attended there, the racial/cultural makeup of the congregation, as well as the fact that the church was led by a white Pastor, became less relevant to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the church and it was meeting my spiritual needs. A consequence of worshiping there was that it slowly started another process of transformation within me; in how I viewed God and the world at large (more on that in the last installment).
This year I moved to a new city and God once again led me to a church led by a white Pastor. My wife and I visted a number of churches when we got here, some led by Black Pastors, some weren’t even Pentecostal. However, God led me again to a Pentecostal church led by a white Pastor. The congregation is very mixed culturally, represented by over 85 different cultures (according to the church’s website). I must add that one would be hard pressed to state definitely that numerically the congregation is mostly “white”. I have observed from my very limited time there, that the church makes an obvious and sincere effort to be welcoming to everyone and involve other cultures in all aspects of the church, WITHOUT BEING PATRONIZING! Most importantly, my wife and I are feel that our spiritual needs are being met and this is a place of worship where we can grow in our relationship with God.