Celebrating our freedom to worship

The following article, written by Seeta Persad, appears in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, March 30, 2012.

The nation today celebrates, with a public holiday, the collective right of the people to freely worship in the religion of their choice, and specifically the struggle and eventual victory of the Spiritual and Shouter Baptist community to secure that right for themselves.

It was in 1996 that the Government granted a public holiday, called Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day, in commemoration of the repeal of the prohibition act, which had prevented Spiritual and Shouter Baptists from openly practicing their religion. Trinidad and Tobago remains the only country globally that celebrates a public holiday for those following the Spiritual Baptist faith.

The doors of the Holy Faith Spiritual Baptist Tabernacle in La Horquetta will be opened for the entire day today as the faithful unite for a day of worship.

Other Baptist churches that will be marking this Holiday with prayer include Garazin Shouter and Baptist Church Ltd of Sangre Grande, Baptist Church Centre in Princes Town, Beth’aleel Fundamental Baptist Church in San Fernando, Bon Air Full Gospel Baptist Church in Mausica, Dickson’s Memorial Baptist Church in San Fernando, First Baptist Church in San Fernando, Monte Grande Baptist Church in St Augustine, Mount Hope Spiritual Baptist Church in Port-of-Spain, Mt Pisgah Spiritual Baptist Church in Santa Rosa.

According to author Hazel Ann Gibbs De Peza, who is a practising Shouter Baptist, the Spiritual Baptist Faith is the name given to the Christian religious group emerging among the Africans in the 19th century in Trinidad. In 1917 the group was outlawed by the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance against its mode of worship which was considered “too noisy” and “too African” and therefore uncivilised and unacceptable. It suffered legal persecution and prosecution until the ordinance was repealed in 1951.

For the original report: Celebrating our freedom to worship: Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday

Gene Toney sings some examples of Trumpets, short hymns sung by members of the Spiritual Baptist Faith.

Author: Ken Archer

I am an ethnomusicologist, who obtained my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. My areas of interests include the musical, ritual, and celebratory traditions of the circum-Caribbean and the African Diaspora. I worked as a lecturer at the Columbus and Marion Campuses of the Ohio State University, where I taught classes in World Music, Rock and Roll/American Popular Music, Western Art Music, and directed the OSU Steel Pan ensemble.