Georgetown, Guyana – (August 11, 2019): President David Granger, this morning, iterated that the Government of Guyana is committed to restoring free education in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana.
The Head of State, who was accompanied by First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, attended the Bicentenary Anniversary celebration of the Mission Chapel Congregational Church, New Amsterdam, East Berbice-Corentyne.
President Granger, in his address, told congregants that the Church occupies an “exalted position of reverence in Guyanese history” noting that it played a phenomenal role in pioneering Christianity and community development at the dawn of Guyanese nationhood.
He said the church holds a central place in the history of Christianity and education in Guyana. “This Church was established as a ‘mother church’ for the expansion of Congregationalism in Berbice. The Church was in the forefront of the Congregationalists’ efforts to provide religious teaching and general education to the population and, particularly, the non-European population of Berbice,” the President said.
Guyana, the Head of State said, owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the Congregational churches for pioneering education in the villages of this country. “Their exertions prepared Africans for Emancipation in 1838…Their efforts laid the foundation for the expansion of universal public, primary education, which we all enjoy in our country today.”
As such, President Granger said “no Guyanese child needs to pay for primary education because of the foundation created. As I said in Union Village (No.53 Village Corentyne on 1st August, 2019), in anticipation of revenues from our petroleum industry, education will be free not only at the primary level, or secondary level but also at the tertiary level.”
Congregationalists forged a link between church and school which were in close proximity to each other.
“It has been a beacon of evangelism over the past two hundred years. Its record and its reputation are legendary. Its bicentenary this year – 2019 – is a monumental event; its celebration is national, not parochial. All Guyanese should be celebrating this day, not just the church, not just New Amsterdam,” the President said.
The Head of State said that Mission Chapel excels as an example of Christian faith in action as it has been resilient despite its challenges over the years and is a “magnificent monument of service to our people”.
The President explained that Congregational churches have deep roots in African-Guyanese communities.
“The Church became the midwife of community life and worship in these villages and has an outstanding record of service,” President Granger said reminding that it was freed Africans who after Emancipation, initiated the Great Village Movement.
“They purchased the abandoned cotton, coffee and sugar plantations and erected free human settlements in their place. For the first time, along the coast of Guyana … what use to be a string of plantations became the cradle of our nation. Congregationalism became the bedrock upon which the ‘Village Movement’ was built,” he said.
The President, who admires the strength and resilience of the country’s villages declared 7th November, National Day of Villages in 2015.
“I believe in the villages. The villages are the cradle of this nation,” he stated while emphasising the importance of an education nation.
He said “education and evangelisation are entwined” adding that “Education has been integral to the expansion of the faith which rests on the principle that it is necessary to know God’s revelation to be faithful to God’s word.”
The President reminded the congregants that education was forbidden during the era of enslavement in the Demerara-Essequibo and Berbice colonies. He said planters and colonial officials, known as the plantocracy and the bureaucracy, felt that education would encourage the enslaved population to revolt.
President Granger said Congregationalists, led by Rev. John Wray, pioneered education of Africans. It was Wray who began to instruct the enslaved population at Plantation Le Resouvenir on the East Coast.
“He [Wray] established a day-school at which religious and secular education was provided to both Africans and Europeans. He established a school in Stabroek and one in New Amsterdam, later, when he assumed responsibilities for the mission in Berbice.”
The Head of State said Congregational Churches led the way in providing education for Africans. Education – religious and secular – was provided at every station in Berbice. They later established schools, linked to their churches, which allowed more persons to receive a primary education.
“The Congregational Church in Guyana was phenomenal. It not only built churches, it built schools. Our children walk on two legs – church and school. Congregationalists embraced a vision of establishing in every village a school. They established schools within the villages and towns to ensure that children did not have to go very far to attend school,” he said.
President Granger said the Congregationalists, two hundred years ago, knew about spiritual development as well as social and economic development.
“They promoted education thereby creating a vision of what was possible with the advent of Emancipation. It equipped people with the knowledge and values which enabled them to better pursue economic independence,” he said iterating that “Emancipation means education”.
The Head of State said Congregationalism and Mission Chapel Church have a critical role to play in renewing the moral social and economic bases of communities, as was done two hundred years ago. “The Church’s mission is eternal. Its work among men and women of faith is ceaseless.”
“Mission Chapel has a glorious history and certainly will have an illustrious future. Its survival, after two hundred years, attests to its resilience and relevance through changing times. Great things are happening in Guyana now and things will get better in years to come. An educated generation today, as at the time of Emancipation, will guarantee the best use of our resources in the future,” the President said while congratulating the church on its Bicentenary Anniversary.
The Bicentenary Anniversary celebration was also attended by Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge; Ms. Barbara Pilgrim, Member of Parliament; Mrs. Kim Williams-Stephen, Regional Executive Officer, East Berbice-Corentyne; Ms. Winifred Heywood, Mayor of New Amsterdam and Mr. Oslen Small, CCH, Pastor, Smith’s Memorial Congregational Church.
Mission Chapel Congregational Church was designated a historic monument by the Government of Guyana in 1966. There are thirty-three churches and missions across the country.