Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day will be marked without some of its more visible rituals on the holiday this year, the first time since it was declared in 1995.
This is because of the restrictions the 200,000 strong Baptist community will face – in particular the limit to ten, the number of people who can be in a gathering as a result of the national effort to contain the covid19 pandemic.
The annual public holiday commemorates the repeal on March 30, 1951 of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance, which prohibited the practise of the Spiritual Baptist faith.
At a media briefing on Monday, the Prime Minister announced that he will hold a day of prayer with his family on Sunday with religious leaders.
Bishop Leon William John said it is with regret the West Indian United Spiritual Baptist Sacred Order and the National Congress of Incorporated Baptist Organisations had to curtail the annual celebrations.
“But it is in keeping with the plea made by the Prime Minister and government for the safety of the people of TT,” said John, who is also the Archbishop of the West Indian United Spiritual Baptists organisation.
He said it is even more disappointing because government had granted the organisation a parcel of land in Balmain, Couva – near the Ato Boldon Stadium, which it had planned to bless at this year’s celebration.
John said arrangements were made to shift the Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler Baptist Village from Harris Promenade, San Fernando to Couva from March 26 to March 29, ending with massive celebrations on March 30.
“The day of celebration was supposed to be a national thanksgiving where we would have prayed for the nation and also consecrate this sacred ground. Because of this coronavirus we had to cancel it.”
He said the Baptists have also had to postpone the first AGM of the Baptist Credit Union which they were all looking forward to, having struggled to establish a credit union. The School of Theology has also had to change the date of orientation. The date of the start of the new school year will be announced as soon as the situation is regularised.
He said like the rest of the country and the world, the Baptist organisations are watching and waiting to see if the celebration could be postponed to a later date or celebrated next year.
“We would really like to have something, not as elaborate, later this year because we really want to consecrate the land.”
In a sermon on Wack Radio 91.1FM on Sunday, John appealed to all Spiritual Baptists to be responsible and not do anything to endanger the health and life of members of the diocese in the community in which they operate, or in the country.
“We are a small country of 1.4 million, and if we have 200 cases think how that would spread. I am asking that we do not congregate in numbers more than ten. If there is a funeral, we would have to treat with that. But there is nothing so important for you to congregate to risk your life and risk infecting others.”
He said it was “foolish” for some people to take a stand that God is able to do the impossible and protect them, and to congregate in droves.
He advised such people, “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. God is able to do the impossible but thou should not put the Lord thy God to the test.”