by Derrick A. Scott
[WASHINGTON, DC ] – Focused on the rallying around “Re-igniting a Nation for Greatness,” Jamaicans came together in the Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) metropolitan region on Sunday to mark their island nation’s Diamond Jubilee with a special Church Service of Thanksgiving, also celebrating 184 years of Emancipation, as Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness called them “crucial partners and drivers of Jamaica’s economic development.”
They turned out by the hundreds at Sligo Seventh Day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside the US capital city, for the Service of Celebration – the first time the annual thanksgiving service for the island’s Independence was being held in-person since the pandemic. Some came in from as far as the state of Delaware. Hundreds more had also joined the live celebration via online platforms.
Prime Minister Holness Welcome Message
Jamaica’s Ambassador, Her Excellency Audrey P. Marks, delivering the welcome and the message from Prime Minister Holness, led a moment of silence to honour the fallen friends and family members who had lost their battle with COVID.
Meanwhile, in his message that the Ambassador read to the gathering, the Jamaican Prime Minister summoned his fellow nationals in the Diaspora to continue their involvement in nation-building. He reminded them that “the Government of Jamaica recognizes the Diaspora as crucial partners and drivers of Jamaica’s economic development.
“Your full engagement will ensure the success of these programmes as we strive to build a better future for ourselves and for future generations,” declared the Prime Minister. And, emphasising how Jamaicans overseas represented a wealth of human, social and financial capital and are key actors and influencers bringing tremendous value to Jamaica, Mr. Holness invited all Jamaicans, at home and abroad, “to participate in the transformation of Jamaica in the coming years, as we build on the experiences and achievements of the past sixty years.”
Against that backdrop, he assured the Jamaicans in the Diaspora: “We are actively pursuing opportunities to channel this value into mutually beneficial policy initiatives.”
The Prime Minister, reflecting on how far the nation had come after 60 years of Independence, and looking forward at the opportunities we can create for the greater advancement of our people and country, stressed that “we must be determined to transform Jamaica into a paradise of peace, opportunity, and prosperity.”
For her part, Ambassador Marks in welcoming the Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica – as well as the Caribbean and other diplomats who were joined by city and state officials and other special guests for the celebration – spoke of how “we are truly grateful that so many of you have decided to join us as we give thanks to our Father in Heaven for all the blessings he has bestowed upon our beloved country and our people, not only in Jamaica but here in the United States and across the globe.”
Rev. Karen Kirlew Sermon
Coming in from Jamaica, Rev. Karen Kirlew, United Theological College of the West Indies warden/tutor and former President of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), delivered a thought-provoking sermon. She drew from the Old Testament prophet Micah, encouraging Jamaicans concerning “what the Lord requires of you… to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
The first woman to head the 173-year-old JBU offered that this year’s Independence theme, “Re-igniting a Nation for Greatness,” was a recognition that Jamaica had gone below the threshold regarded by the world’s standards of greatness. But, she argued, “It is also a challenge to a nation, to Jamaica, to all Jamaicans, all of us, to self-actualize for greatness, that is, to be the most we can be and to do that which is acceptable to God and humankind in the world today as greatness.”
The Rev. Mrs. Kirlew identified key measures of greatness that the challenge addressed: Spiritual greatness – so many churches per square mile and many faith communities active but spiritual deterioration evident; Emotional greatness – being emotionally strong and productive; Sociological greatness – how we deal with one another, value one another, and affirm the dignity of the one humanity we share, although “the high rate of crime and violence invalidates this”; Political greatness – what more needs to be done to build renewed confidence in Jamaica’s politics and political leaders today; and Economic greatness.
She urged her fellow Jamaicans to be “purposeful in our decision and policy making… intent on living our faith, hold each other’s hand, walk alongside each other, parents with their children, educators with their students, pastors with their members, politicians with their loyal supporters, businessmen and women with their customers, employers with their employees, members of the diaspora with each other.”
Asserting that although struggles will remain, “we cannot give up,” she said we are imperfect citizens of an imperfect nation, but unceasing must our efforts be to apprehend the full potential of our beloved nation, Jamaica. “Members of the diaspora: Won’t you fight with the rest of us to reclaim and revive the heart and soul of Jamaica?”
Stirring musical renditions were given by New York-based Braata Singers, Mr. K-Anthony, Mr. Alvy Powell, and the young Ms. Jazmyn McKoy. During the programme that Rev. Dr. Bertram Melbourne moderated, assisted by several Jamaican ministers.
Scripture passages were read by a number of individuals, including His Excellency Marten Schalkwijk. Ambassador of Suriname in his capacity as Chair of the Caribbean Community Caucus of Ambassadors; Ms. Alecia Taylor, minister-counsellor at the Embassy of Jamaica; Dr. Enid Bogle, retired Howard University professor and relative of national hero Paul Bogle; and Ms. Donnette Cooper, a lawyer, reading in the Jamaican patois.
And, Ambassador Marks presented Dr. Basil Buchanan, Co-Chair of the Church Service Planning Committee, with a special plaque recognizing his 42 years providing “invaluable support to the Jamaican Embassy in its annual celebration of Jamaica’s in the nation’s capital.”
Following the service, the Ambassador hosted a reception. Everyone was treated to sumptuous offerings of Jamaican cuisine, catered by Island Quizine.