“The British Virgin Islands is a Christian community!” That popular saying continues to be echoed loud and proud throughout the Virgin Islands by young and old. However, it was last week that the weightiness of this common BVI declaration was fully appreciated thanks to the presentation of a distinguished panel on ZBVI radio.
The panel discussion which was moderated by Ms. Sandra Ward, Cabinet Secretary and member of the Interdenominational Day of Prayers organizing Committee included: Mrs. Esme Potter, Minister of church of God of Prophecy Long Look, Dr. Angel Smith, Director of the Virgin Islands Studies Institute at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and Methodist Preacher; and Dr. Charles Wheatley Chairman of the Board of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and Methodist Preacher.
The discourse was one of the many activities held in observance of the 4 May, Interdenominational Day of Prayer; and during the hour-long program the panelists explained how prayer is deeply entrenched in the BVI culture and history.
Dr. Smith said the missionary account of the emancipation from slavery notes that on the day the declaration people prayed and were thankful as they stated that the abolition of slavery was a long time in coming. He said that this is also the reason why the 1 August was always declared not just a holiday but also a day of prayer, praise and thanksgiving.
The Director of the Virgin Islands Studies Institute noted also that the BVI’s social structures has focus on the Church, and this he says goes back to the fact that at a point in the Territory’s history majority of the schools were run by the Methodist Church. “Schools were in churches, they were chapel schools; and the influence that had on the society because the society was built on the church.”
The Chairman of the HLSCC Board agreed that prayer is a part of BVI education by stating that the first Education Act in the BVI became law in 1955 it stipulated that prayers and scripture reading should start the school day. He also noted that in the 1977 Education Act that followed collective worship involving students at the start of the school day was stipulated. Dr. Wheatley also referenced the Act of 2004; and further pointed out that the 2015 Education regulations in section eight also calls for collective worship at the schools.
Even the legislative arm of government is said to have a link to the Church; and Dr. Smith noted that the first BVI legislators were Methodist Church Leaders: “The church had a system that educated persons beyond the primary level to preach…They would have learned all the skills necessary…And these were the men that became our first Ministers of Government. They are the forerunners that carried the torch, it is a very important part of our history,” Dr. Smith noted.
Mrs. Potter agreed with the other panelists that prayers shaped the Virgin Islands landscape and noted that it was more than just religious ideal: “They (Virgin Islanders of the past) were taught that our survival was God’s mercy and grace…In other words their relationship with God was their survival because of the manner of life and the hardship that they had to go through they realized that they couldn’t survive without God.”
In admonishing other families to commence praying together, Mrs. Potter said: “I find that praying as a family has a lot to do with how your family grows up to be. It builds a fear of God in the life of the individual when you constantly remind them of their creator and what he expects of us, especially if you try to live a life yourself that defines what you are talking about.”
- Source: BVIHotpress.com