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Historic Phillippo Baptist celebrates 200th anniversary

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THE historic Phillippo Baptist Church last week closed off a year-long celebration of its 200 years existence with a special service.

The closing ceremony was held at the church building on William Street in Spanish Town, St Catherine, under the anniversary’s theme ‘Jehovah God, Our Foundation’.

The celebration, which started on January 1 last year, included a family focus symposium, harvest, medi-clinic expo, homecoming, banquet and an awards ceremony.

Phillippo Baptist, the oldest Baptist church in the island and one of the oldest in the Caribbean, was founded in 1818 by Rev James Murcell Phillippo.

The English-born Baptist missionary, a slavery abolitionist, was among an early batch of Baptist missionaries sent to Jamaica by the Baptist Missionary Society in England.

The chapel, which has a seating capacity for 200 people, was built by Rev Phillippo along with slaves. Influenced by the Georgian period in England (1702-910), the landmark church was constructed by skilled craftsmen with admirably finished details.

It was built with red bricks, stones, and shingles, is rectangular in shape with three porches. The church has withstood several hurricanes, including Charlie, Gilbert, Ivan and Dean, and coupled with the effects of the hurricanes, termite infestation, major changes have taken place. However, the exterior still displays the impressive Georgian architectural style.

In tribute to the work of its founder — who was not only interested in Christianising slaves but firmly believed in the important of education and consequently erected school — Phillippo Baptist church today offers skills training programme, legal aid assistance, scholarships and mentorship programmes.

Governor General Patrick Allen, in his greetings at the service, reminded the congregation about the pivotal role played by Rev Phillippo, not only in the life of the church but in the abolition of slavery, and the significance of the church in the Jamaican emancipation movement.

“The chains of slavery, I am told, are buried in your church yard. I don’t know if that is a fact. You have a rich legacy of which all of you can be very proud.

“The theme you carried throughout the year embodied actually the ethos of your journey and the ethos of your history, its triumph and its struggle. Through this expression of gratitude you are have declared constantly that Jehovah God is your guardian, he is your foundation, he has helped this church to prevail despite all the circumstances and He is the One,” said Allen.

The governor general said that throughout the years Phillippo Baptist has been blessed to have pastors who have been socially aware and whose inspiring ministry has made an impact on the church and on the nation.

Rev Karl Johnson, secretary of the Jamaican Baptist Union, in his prepared greetings read by a member of the church, said: “God is not just the foundation of Phillippo Baptist Church, but the foundation of all that is created, seen and the unseen… across every continent and on human leadership…

“May this year of celebration continue to inspire those who are part of this great congregation to continue to serve so that God’s great shalom, God’s great peace might be brought into the lives of the human experience wherever they exist. May God’s empowering and anointing presence continue to be with you as the pilgrimage continue in the midst of our ever-changing and challenging times,” he continued.

Rev Carl Dyer, chairman of the Spanish Town Ministers Fraternal, said the church’s journey and ministries and service are a testimony to God’s goodness.

“Things are changing. It’s a very dynamic society and it’s very easy for churches to swerve off the path. So, as a church, let us re-evaluate our purpose and secondly, as a church community, let us re-evaluate our progress in light of your specific and unique mandate,” he said.

Guest preacher, Rev Karen Kirlew, president of the Jamaican Baptist Union, reminded the church that throughout generations and in every age God has remained constant as the creator, redeemer, and sustainer.

“So, as Phillippo Baptiste Church continues to be a symbol of hope and freedom in community and the nation, Phillippo Church and the rest of us must gladly acknowledge the reality of the presence of God’s experience in the very person of the true God the Father and creator and God the son as our giver, and God the Holy Spirit as our sustainer and our ongoing sanctifier.

“God creates and establishes, and God who reconstructs in his redemptive words [is the same one] who sustains and sanctifies,” she said.

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