Georgetown, Guyana – (August 26, 2018) President David Granger, today, attended the 165th anniversary of the Zoar Congregational Church in Plaisance, East Coast Demerara, where he urged the church to use this occasion and the tradition of Congregationalism to re-ignite the beacon of spirituality and hope for its communities; re- integrate with the communities by participating in social, civic and economic initiatives; re-invent opportunities for young people by working with cultural and sporting groups and re-engage with neighborhood democratic councils, other churches and civil organisations to arrest social decay.

In his address, the Head of State said that Zoar Congregational Church – one of the earliest churches established in Plaisance – has been a source of spiritual and material sustenance for villagers. Plaisance Village, in turn, he said has supported the Church’s work as much as the Church has supported the Village.

“Plaisance and Zoar have had a long and symbiotic relationship. The Church has been a vital force in community life and I urge that on this significant celebration that the Church and congregation, together with friends and supporters, think about ways and means of transforming this community even further than the way the Congregational Church transformed Guyana… The Church has a role to foster encourage and promote village life so that people will stay, produce so when you pass through Plaisance you must see evidence of economic vitality, young people at work. Everything you can produce in this village,” he said.

Providing a brief history of the community, where the church is located, the Head of State said that Plaisance was founded after 1838, during what was called the Village Movement when freed Africans pooled their scant savings to purchase disused cotton and sugar plantations on which they established villages and human settlements. “Before then, there were just a string of plantations and it was your fore fathers during the Village Movement, who transformed these plantations into what we now know as Guyana. It is the most significant development historically to take place in this country. These villages had a single and simple architecture – church, home, school and farm. That is the foundation on which those fore fathers who couldn’t read but had the intelligence, established these villages. Every child had a home, every person had a farm and every child went to school,” he said.

Noting that Plaisance was transformed by its pioneer proprietors from a plantation to a human settlement, President Granger said that villagers could be proud of the community’s achievements, history, spirit, origin and relations just as members of the church can be proud of its history. Out of these villages, the Head of State said, were great expectations, where nothing that was needed or wanted could not have been produced.

“There was nothing you could want that was not produced by these villages. These villages were rich in fruit, vegetables, provisions, sugar cane and other cash crops. In addition, Plaisance produced carpenters, cabinet-makers, gutter-smiths, masons, painters, plumbers and tailors – and these men were held in high esteem. Its schools graduated brilliant sons and daughters who became attorneys, businesspersons, civil servants, doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers and other professionals. The village once had a vibrant business sector, which included small manufacturing, shops and stores. These were not accidental achievements. They were the results of hard work, of the intelligence of the fore fathers who set up the pillars– the family, the farm, the school and the church. Those pillars must be reinforced if the village is to enjoy a renaissance,” President Granger noted.

Speaking of the legacy of congregationalism in Guyana, the President said that of all of the Christian denominations in Guyana, none of the denominations did so much for the freed Guyanese as much as the Congregational Church. It was the Congregational Church, he said, over 200 years ago which started to minister unto the Africans of the colonies even when they were still enslaved.

“Guyana is eternally grateful to the Congregational Church. I would go so far as to say that without the Congregational Church, the Village Movement would not have achieved what it achieved. It gave the freed Africans a sense of purpose, a sense of dignity and it is that dignity, that yearning for freedom that propelled them. The Church wasn’t an instigator but it gave the freed Africans a vision. It is not an accident of history that most of the Congregationalist churches of Guyana – what I refer to fondly as the A to Z of Congregationalism, from Arundel to Zoar – are over 150 years old,” he said.

Mission Chapel Congregational Church, almost 200 years old, is the oldest Church in Guyana; Albion Chapel in Fyrish, is 180 years old; Freedom Congregational Church in Stewartville, is 176 years old; Ebenezer Congregational Church in Den Amstel, is 175 years old; Smith Memorial Congregational Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary this year; Arundel Congregational Church will celebrate its 174th anniversary this year; and the Ebenezer Congregational Church in Ann’s Grove, is 156 years old.

“Congregationalism bequeathed a fine example of religious independence and autonomy in which its local churches are governed by the congregation and not by a hierarchical clergy. This gave villagers confidence in their own ability to manage their communities. My presence here is a reassurance to village life and the importance of villages… I ask the Church to take this message to the congregations, not be concerned only with religious services but services of an economic and social nature. The celebration of this 165th anniversary of the establishment of the church should be more than the passive observance another historical milestone – more than a birthday party. It should be a call to action. The Congregational Church was born to change society and it did so in fundamental ways. It can do so again,” he said.

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