The obelisk at Carib Street, San Fernando remains a symbol of triumph in the Spiritual Baptist community, who overcame the colonial oppression of having to hide to practice their faith.
Now liberated and recognised as a God-fearing people and equal-sect of society, hundreds of worshippers donned their Afrocentric wear and vociferously declared their Lord through the streets of San Fernando on Saturday for their annual procession ahead of the March 30 Spiritual Baptist Day holiday.
Beginning at the obelisk, leaders and mothers prayed for the nation’s strength, using the traditional calabash and flowers in anointing the land. The monument was presented to the City by the Baptist community to mark the first National Shouter Baptist Day in 1996. With their colourful display, the disciples proceeded to the National Insurance Board office along Harris Promenade, where there is a Cross in the yard. The Cross remains a monument of the first Baptist church in T&T, which was established by the late Archbishop Elton Griffith.
Rev Wilfred Edwards of the Mount Moriah Spiritual Baptist Church, Vance River told Guardian Media that the procession commemorated the liberation of the Spiritual Baptist faith and marked the beginning of a week of activities.
The liberation that Edwards spoke of was from the period 1917 to 1951 when the Spiritual and Shouter Baptist faiths were banned by the then colonial government through the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance. During that era, Baptists caught practising their faith were arrested, fined and imprisoned.
“This function is about visiting the monuments in remembrance of the ancestors; the fathers of the faith who had worked assiduously for freedom. Freedom is one of the highest ideals that man can strive for and they have won it through the years by their dedication and with the help and assistance from God, who had sustained them up to this period of time,” Edwards said.
This year’s celebration also honours the late Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, who is mostly known for his struggles and victories for the working class and was a forefather of the trade union movement. But Butler was also a preacher in the Spiritual Baptist faith.
“He is actually a fighter for us, who began the struggle for both labour and for the Spiritual Baptist faith.”
Worshippers then gathered at the bandstand for prayers and worship.