Vidya Mason was born in Moriah, Tobago, and was raised in the Moravian Church. But about age 13 she received a dream that she must be converted and become a Spiritual Baptist. She was baptised in 1937 at a river in St Joseph and would go on to lead the church as archbishop for 55 years.
Her Grace Archbishop Vidya Mason, 97, spoke with Newsday last week from the Holy Trinity Spiritual Baptist Cathedral Archdiocese in St Joseph, which is celebrating 81 years in 2021.
Mason recalled the early days of the church they were in "full power" and "shouting".
"(And) we would greet one another as family."
She said people always had respect for Spiritual Baptists but this has changed somewhat of late.
"I don't know how it fall down now."
She lamented that some Baptists today were more concerned with vanity and "play, play thing", lacking respect for their spiritual parents.
"They doing anything and saying anything. The way they are living now, that would not happen in my days."
She recalled an incident when the church was preaching in Port of Spain and she told her spiritual mother she was about to leave while the service was still going on.
"She lash me. They used to call her 'warrior'. But today is a play thing. Back then when you have to go to church you have to go to church. If you don't they come and ask you what happened."
She said she has also seen "bad mind" practised by people within the faith.
"If they don't like you in a faith they do anything to get you out of the faith. But I am planted by the rivers of water."
Mason began in the church as a preacher spreading the gospel and being sent as far as Penal, San Fernando, Sangre Grande, and Toco. She was always sent alone and would carry the first Psalm, Psalm 21, and the third chapter of St John. She said the people were very receptive and she was not worried about her safety or security.
"(There were no incidents) praise the Lord."
She recalled up to last year she was moving about the country preaching but had to slow down as she was having pain in her foot.
Mason moved up the ranks of the church from a deacon, reverend mother, auxiliary bishop, bishop and, after various degrees, finally to an archbishop. She described her life as an archbishop as a decent one.
"Whenever you do things you have to do it with respect and behaviour. When you do things right you come to Jesus more and God accepts you more."
Mason recalled "feeling great" when she was first ordained as archbishop so many years ago.
"There was always a lot of women in leadership (in the church)."
Asked why this was so, she replied that she did not know.
"They know the gospel," she added.
She described being an archbishop as a busy life with a lot of moving around, helping people and speaking to people, but she was able to handle it at her age.
"Plenty of younger people mash up more than me."
She added: "The wasted life grows shorter still as the days and months increase."
She began her first church in Belmont and then it was moved to Mt D'or where she currently resides. She is now in charge of 31 churches in Trinidad and six in Tobago together with her son, Senior Archbishop Dr Jeremiah Mason.
Asked about the church's current membership compared to when she first started, Mason said some churches increased while others remained the same.
"Some didn't increase because the parents died (and the children stopped)."
She said there was a challenge of disobedient children.
"Many parents causing children to go the road of perdition."
Her son, Senior Archbishop Dr Jeremiah Mason, stressed the youth baptist population had been growing. He also spoke about state support for the church and reported they receive moral support but no funding. He appealed to the Prime Minister for assistance to uplift the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Mason said she was very proud of her son for following in her in the leadership of the faith.
"He's great. Since baby days he is going like that. And I pushed him forward."
Mason has five children, about 45 grandchildren, about 50 great-grandchildren and some great-great-grandchildren as well.
Asked what she attributed her long life to, Mason said prayers was the reason.
"Pray in season and out of season."
Asked how she felt about serving as archbishop for 55 years Mason said "happy". And what message does she have for the baptist community?
"I want to tell them to hold on to Jesus. He is the rock in the weary land. He is the shelter in the time of storm. And what he has done for me he can do it for you and others. And they must take stock of their lives before it is too late because the coming of the Lord is nigh."
Asked how she felt about the Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day celebrations being smaller this year due to covid19 restrictions, Mason said the church must abide by the regulations but she was disappointed there will not be the usual big celebrations.
"It is nice with the crowd."
Both Mason and her son extended greetings to the community on the occasion of the holiday.