Georgetown, Guyana – (November 24, 2019) President David Granger, and First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, this afternoon, attended the 175th anniversary of the Arundel Congregational Church, located in the village of Buxton, East Coast Demerara.
The Head of State in his address to the congregants said congregationalism is inseparable from communitarianism.
“Congregationalism is the connection between the individual and the community, based upon the belief that people’s “…social identity and personality are largely moulded by community relationships.” The post-Emancipation villages were good grounds for such a church and such a doctrine,” President Granger said.
The President said the Buxton-Friendship community has a rich Christian history as much as it has a proud tradition in education.
“Buxton-Friendship [community] has a proud tradition, also, in education. It once boasted three secondary schools, four primary schools, nursery schools and a trade school. It has produced outstanding professionals, scholars and public servants. The Buxton scholarship was enacted into law by the then British Guiana Court of Policy on 7th July 1923 to provide academic scholarships for the children of Buxton-Friendship,” President Granger said.
Further, the Head of State said Buxton has a rich cultural legacy and emphasised the preservation of drama, folklore and music as a means of preserving and transmitting history to succeeding generations.
“Non-Governmental organisations – such as the Buxton Arts Theatre; Buxton Steel Orchestra; drama groups, youth and sport clubs, ‘kwe-kwe’ group, Buxton United Football Club; Buxton-Friendship Restoration Committee and the First of August Movement (FAM) – speak of this Community’s cultural vitality and vibrancy,” he said.
President Granger noted too that the Buxton-Friendship community has had a thriving economy as its farmlands, despite the challenges of occasional flooding and poor drainage, provided abundant fruits and vegetables for its residents and for sale in other markets.
The President said life was not easy in post-Emancipation British Guiana 175 years ago describing the condition as being ravaged by the four horsemen of the Guyanese Apocalypse – crime, disease, ignorance and poverty.
“The majority of people, even 75 years ago, lived in the rural regions without electricity, running water, radio, refrigeration, telephones and public transportation. The Church was well attended in that period of pervasive poverty. When prosperity arrived, however, the pews emptied, and the Church lost its large congregations,” President Granger told congregants of the Arundel Congregational Church, which is the offspring of the missionaries who came to minister to the Africans before Emancipation.
Congregational churches from Albion Chapel in Fyrish to Zoar in Plaisance Village– have deep roots in African-Guyanese communities and President Granger said the Church has an outstanding record of service.
“These Churches led the way in providing education – religious and secular – at every station. Schools, linked to their churches, allowed more persons to receive an education.
Congregationalism emerged as a new model in Protestantism. It embodied the fundamental principles of the right to religious organization; freedom from external ecclesiastical authority; autonomy, wherein each member enjoyed equal and essential ecclesiastical authority; and, notwithstanding its autonomous character, each church was enjoined to pursue fellowship with other congregational churches,” the Head of State said.
He said Congregationalism established schools which were linked to their churches and which laid the foundation for a system of public education; equipped the freed population with the knowledge and values with which to pursue economic independence; and exemplified an excellent model of religious autonomy in which its local churches were governed by their congregations and not by a clergy.
“The nation owes an eternal debt of gratitude to the Congregational churches for pioneering education and for promoting social change for more than 200 years,” President Granger said.
Arundel Congregational Church named after John Arundel, an abolitionist and a Secretary of London Missionary Society (LMS), was established in Buxton a mere four years after the village was bought. The Church, since then established the Buxton Congregational School on land donated by a member of the community – a practice which adopted also, in other African villages; exemplified church-community relations and continues its mission, today – through the Men’s Guild; Women’s Union; Young Adult Movement; Young People’s Union; Sunday School; School-feeding and Literacy Programme; and its outreaches to senior citizens – to remain a beacon of hope to this community.
President Granger reminded that the Buxton-Friendship community is the legacy bequeathed by the original proprietors of the villages who invested in them and did not ignore their value.
“It is for the present generation to safeguard this priceless inheritance and to ensure that these villages become more bountiful and fruitful. The freed Africans who established Buxton and Friendship did not have formal education, but they were not foolish. They were provident. They made provision for the future and that is the reason why we could be here today. The Church’s mission is eternal. Its work among men and women of faith is ceaseless,” the President said noting that Congregationalism is inseparable from communitarianism.
The Church’s social mission is unmistakable, the President said noting that its mission is central to the community’s improvement. The Church-community model he said has existed since the early years of Christianity and is as relevant and valid today as it was then.
“The Church fulfils its mission by ministering to the community. The Church teaches Jesus’s truth that compels it to be concerned with all aspects of a people’s lives, including their happiness, health and personal freedom. The Church is not alone; the village has not been abandoned. Your Government will launch a Decade of Development 2020-2029 which will sustain local democracy and support village renewal. It will ensure improvements in sustaining local democratic organs; in providing better infrastructure; and in expanding economic enterprises. The Decade of Development is the future,” the Head of State assured.
The Church and community, the President said have shown how, historically, they were capable of protecting essential institutions such as the home, the churches (or other religious houses), the schools and the farmlands.
President Granger urged the church and the community to improve investment to restore abandoned farmlands; accelerate agro-processing; expand housing for new and future generations; and promote ‘green’ development in small-scale renewable energy systems to power homes and small businesses.
He congratulated the Church on its milestone which the Head of State said represents an opportunity to look forward with purposefulness to the next twenty-five years and, also, to look back with pride on its stewardship to this and to neighbouring communities.
“This Church is not a relic of the past but a part of the future. It is an important institution committed to improving this community, continuously,” President Granger said as he encouraged Arundel Congregational Church to renew its covenant with Buxton-Friendship, particularly in the fields of education, economic enhancement and employment generation.
Meanwhile, President Granger announced that the church ought to consider utilising solar energy and noted that assistance will be provided to the church to acquire solar panels.
The anniversary celebration is themed “Honouring the past: Furthering God’s mission in this season.” The sermon was delivered by Mrs. Jennifer Martin.