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Interviewing Rev. Dr. Devon Merrick Dick Interviewing Rev. Dr. Devon Merrick Dick
by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2021-10-01 06:24:35
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Rev. Dr. Devon Merrick Dick, the Pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church, Kingston, Jamaica who also serves as a Justice of the Peace since 1990 talks with Elsa Lycias Joel about his books 'The Cross and the Machete', 'Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building' & ‘Enduring Advocacy for a Better Jamaica’, his contribution as the President of the Jamaica Baptist Union  between the 2016 and 2018, his admiration for Paul Bogle, a Jamaican Baptist deacon, national hero and activist, as to why he will continue to applaud Edna Manley's creations and how he can do all things through Christ.

dev0001_4001.    Why is history tweaked and who gains from it? How hard is it to challenge the wrong opinions of popular scholarship?

History is an interpretation of events so the dominant class gets to write history and popularize their version of the story.  It is very hard to challenge popular scholarship because it is a pervasive and persuasive scholarship that is well known and well loved.  Both Jamaican and British scholars portrayed Paul Bogle as a violent man with murderous intentions including British Historian Gad Heuman inappropriately titled work, Killing Time.  Too often in history, freedom fighters are called rebels.  My work showed that Bogle was a Baptist pastor who protested against the inequalities and injustices in society.

2. As you respond to the mischaracterisation of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon in your book 'The Cross and the Machete' and ‘Enduring Advocacy for a Better Jamaica’, do you think of it as a calling to bury all lies and manipulation?

I see my calling as to present a more accurate characterization of Bogle and Gordon. We need more Bogles and Gordons, dauntless to do the mission God is calling us to do.  

3. Yes, Bogle appeared in times of crisis and his acts/ sacrifice is measured according to the evil or challenge faced by his countrymen which assures that the accolade of the public will never end. Has this masterpiece of your's reached places you wanted it to?

Has it reached India! (Shrugs showing a shaka hand gesture). Well, it is cited many times and has reached places Beyond my dreams such as Australia.  The work is quoted by scholars at University of Oxford and the University of the West Indies.

4. Within 2016 and 2018, you integrated yourself with the 338 Churches and approximately 40,000 communicant members. From 1849 were there any kind of evolution that had taken place over generations, maybe towards more and more liberal beliefs. Kindly discuss if you know any.

1996 was the first time the JBU ordained a female, Rev. Angela Morgan to be a pastor.  Also, since 2000, the JBU allowed a divorcee to become a pastor or remain as a pastor.  Also, it was after I became pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in 1990 that a funeral service for a non-member could be held in the church and also the dedication of children born out of marriage could be blessed in a Sunday morning worship service. 

5. I guess  'Rebellion to Riot'  was a strong reaction meant to address certain shortcomings of the churches, even racism in churches. Do you see any signs of progress in these areas?

One sign of progress happened four years ago when the Jamaica Baptist Union elected its first female President, Rev. Karen Kirlew.  Classism is more of a problem than racism in the churches.  The progress is slow in terms of classism with the vast majority of the leaders coming from the middle class.  

6. One year of teaching mathematics at the Morant Bay High School would have helped you develop a rudimentary check-in system with yourself as you cater to different students with different capabilities. Pedagogical ideas would've sure helped you in your mission, right?

Indeed.  Many people say, I am a teacher more than a preacher. You know, teaching is dialogical. Furthermore, my Bible Studies are said to be understandable.

7. In the business of enlightening others, you need to understand the changes and evolve for your own good and for your listeners because it is the key to future-proofing how you run the show as a thought leader. Is overcoming certain hurdles and obstacles part of your daily work?

Yes.  Every other day there is a new crisis. In 2016, I was the guest speaker at the “Black History of Britain’ wherein BBC, UK erected plaques to mark important worldwide events in Black history.  One plaque was erected at Stony Gut in memory of the people who were brutalised or killed following the Morant Bay Protests.  I was also interviewed by David Olusoga, Historian and BBC presenter for the BBC programme ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History.’ Then Constantine Bogle, a great grandson of Paul Bogle, took over the interview and lambasted the British for colonizing and looting countries.

8. Constantine Bogle!

Yes, I was fortunate enough to meet him, the great grandson of Paul Bogle. To cherish a martyr is our responsibility and Bogle's descendants keep the memory of the martyr alive. "Martyr” is a Greek word meaning witness and yes, we still witness Paul Bogle's heroism because we yearn to.

9. The looks of Paul Bogle and how he is to be depicted is a matter of concern because he is an undisputed hero in the eyes of Jamaicans. Do you stand by Edna Manley's work?

Yes. I stand by Edna Manley's work because only she could display to the world the strength of Paul Bogle and his commitment for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica.  'It was 96 degrees in the shade, 10,000 soldiers on parade' still echoes everywhere and we all know the reason. Paul Bogle did carry his cross and only Edna Manley made sure the world knew of it. In that statute Edna Manley evokes the Crucifixion of Jesus.  The horizontal stretch of the bent arms reminds us of Jesus on the Cross with Manley blending the machete with the Cross showing that religion and politics are interwoven.  Bogle therefore, is portrayed as a Christian martyr.  The story of the Morant Bay Rebellion should be told to all nations and I would stand by anyone who does it.

10. I think with you. What are you most grateful for in your ministry?

God always inspires me with a Word to deliver. Every other day I'm blessed to empower at least one soul. Learning to make small acts of self-sacrifice daily is enjoyable. Anytime an opportunity presents itself I'm ready, willing, and able to make a larger act of loving self-sacrifice.

11. Few words on the Boulevard Baptist Church family. What would a harmonious coexistence of a church family look like?

When we love God fully and love others as ourselves for one of the greatest commandments is "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself".  Practically it means no one is left behind and all have access to basic resources and opportunities to live a meaningful and godly life.

12. When certain religions are identified as the source of terrorism, violence or extremism, is it relevant to seek remedies within them? Talking about human rights protection, how successful is the Boulevard Baptist Church in reaching more people to build better societies?

There is a lot more work to be done.  To sow and reap bountifully is our calling and hence we reach people through varied ministries. Training people in sports, cooking, baking and other skills necessary for their livelihood is important to us.  Most of the trainees are from inner cities.  Food bank is also our priority.

13. Working hard to witness the good news each and every day to our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues with the certainty of an eternal reward is a blessing. Your favorite song of gratitude!

Thank you Lord. This song plays in my heart and head too, all the time.

14. I read somewhere that you play  Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis and Football. Are you a champion in one of these?

I was a champion at Calabar where my team entered the finals of schoolboy table tennis.  I lost my match to the then Jamaican Champion, Colin McNeish.  I enjoy Lawn Tennis and Football for the energy they pump into me.  My usual tennis partner is Pearnel Charles, immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives. The group I play with call me ‘Usain Bolt’ because I am fast on the court.  All of them are also over 80!

15. Who is more like you? Deon, Duvaughn or Dana-Marie!

Deon is the first Jamaican to have a PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a major in Medical Physics.  She likes to create history.  That is not my focus.  Dana-Marie lives and works in England as actuary with Milliman Consulting Firm.  She loves to travel and is very adventurous.  That is not me.  Duvaughn likes all things sports like me.  Duvaughn is a physiotherapist, certified fitness trainer and represents Jamaica as a bodybuilder.  In addition, he reads a lot like me. 

He is ‘a chip off the old block’ (smiles).

16. Describe your wife Ms. Mary Samuels in three words.

Commitment, caring and chic.

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts Reverend Devon. 'The Cross and the Machete' will be known in India sooner than expected. Rightly stressed "You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.

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