September 19, 2020

Bob Marley

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Our story yesterday (Thu) that songs by the reggae greats Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, who practiced Rastafarianism, will appear in new Anglican Church hymnals in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, has produced much debate on the local air waves. Visiting Anglican Bishop of Kingston, Rt. Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson, in an interview with iNews embraced the inclusion of Marley’s music in the church hymnals. Marley’s “One Love” and Tosh’s “Psalm 27” would be the first reggae tunes to appear beside traditional worship music on the island where reggae was born.

As a practicing “traditional” Anglican myself, I first heard Marley’s music played last year at St. George’s Anglican (Episcopal) Church on Courts Road, George Town, at a service commemorating Jamaica’s Independence. I felt ‘uncomfortable’ when “Three Little Birds” and “Redemption Song” were played. I had the same feeling when this was repeated at this year’s Jamaican Independence Day service.  Rev. Ernle Gordon, an Anglican Church spokesman in Jamaica said, “They may have been anti-church, but they were not anti-God or anti-religion.”

To me, that is like taking the icing off the cake and only eating that. It’s picking out the part of a speech that is 90% damning and only using the 10% that is appealing. Bishop Thompson does admit that adapting some of the musical culture of the society could pose a serious problem to the modesty and divinity of the church if it is not properly managed. He added: “The danger is, if the church adapts too much of the contemporary cultures, it then cannot be distinguished from the rest of the world.”

I think the Anglican Hymnal is very much open and will not be shut for a long time. Watch this space.

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