Journal from Jamaica – May 20, 2011

Church of the Brethren director of news services, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, is reporting from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica through May 25, the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence. She hopes to post a journal entry each day as a personal reflection on the event. Here is the journal entry for Friday, May 20:

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Grace Thrillers perform the new peace anthem, “Glory to God and Peace on Earth,” written by Grub Cooper and commissioned by the World Council of Churches.

 

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Tarrus Riley performs during the IEPC peace concert.

 

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Peace Concert venue in Emancipation Park, in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. As the sun set, and the clouds drifted over the palm trees, saxophonist Dean Fraser came on stage–flanked by the doves of peace.

Jamaica really showed off for us today! A Peace Concert in Kingston’s Emancipation Park wowed the ecumenical crowd along with locals who turned out despite a rainy start to the evening. Sponsoring the free, open-to-the-public concert were the World Council of Churches, Caribbean Conference of Churches, Jamaican Council of Churches, Jamaica Tourist Board, and Avis Car Rental.

Group after group of singers and dancers, drummers and violinists, bands and choirs filled the stage–each performance somehow more exciting than the amazing one that had just preceded it. Some of the anticipation that built through the evening came from the emcee herself, who introduced each group proudly, “All Jamaicans!” or “One of Jamaica’s finest!”

As I watched the stark beauty of a ballet duet performed by two members of the National Dance Theater Company, and listened with shivers to an impassioned rendition of “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by violinist Paulette Bellamy, who also is a virtuoso pianist and has been awarded an Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government–I suddenly realized that although we have been confined to a university campus, the IEPC is actually meeting in a national capital and all the cultural treasures that implies surround us here.

But skillful selection of performers and music also made it clear that the concert organizers from the Jamaican Council of Churches intended the event to be as much about faith as the arts. Outstanding local church choirs and youth dance groups were interspersed with popular musicians like saxophonist Dean Fraser, reggae/soul singer Tarrus Riley, Christian rap poet Nana Moses, the Fab 5 Inc. and Grub Cooper.

The Fab 5 and Cooper anchored the concert, and the band just seemed to be having fun. At one point, their music director interrupted the emcee to say they needed to play the “real” version of the song “By the Rivers of Babylon,” for the IEPC–because apparently the convocation choir had sung it all wrong in opening worship. At least, it hadn’t been the Jamaican version! In a just-for-fun teasing tone, he invited the convocation choir to sing along.

The climax of the concert was a performance of the IEPC theme song, written by Cooper and commissioned by the WCC. The Grace Thrillers–a gospel group that Cooper has produced for some 20 years–sang the brand-new peace anthem, “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.” Cooper gave a presentation copy of the CD to the general secretary of the WCC, announcing that he is giving over the rights to be used for the ecumenical movement.

It turned out not to be the last song of the night. After someone in the audience called out for “Marley,” the Fab 5 led in playing Bob Marley’s “One Love” as several musicians from other groups came back on stage to join in.

One love…. Echoes of the “One Love Peace Concert” in Kingston in 1978, when the hands of political rivals in two warring parties were joined by Marley, during a performance of “Jammin’” with The Wailers.

One love… not a bad choice to close out another peace concert in Kingston 33 years later. Not a bad choice to help close out another decade of work to end violence.

— More reports, interviews, and journals are planned from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica, through May 25 as Internet access allows. A photo album is being started at http://support.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserAlbum&AlbumID=14337. Peace witness staff Jordan Blevins has started blogging from the convocation, go the Brethren Blog at https://www.brethren.org/testblog/ . Find webcasts provided by the WCC at www.overcomingviolence.org.