The Spiritual Baptist Church, thought to be present in the English-speaking Caribbean from about the late nineteenth century, has long been a fairly potent force in the daily life of the islanders, although its effect has varied depending on the island concerned. Certainly, in Trinidad and St Vincent, the movement has had considerable visibility over the years; and in those countries, its evolution and development have seen the movement take a prestigious place as a respected religious institute in the last two or three decades. However, the movement only extended to Barbados in 1957 when a Spiritual Baptist preacher, a Barbadian by birth, returned to his native island from Trinidad, where he had been living for several years. The Reverend Granville Williams established the first Spiritual Baptist Church in Barbados and has continued to oversee the church’s development since its inception.
The Barbados Spiritual Baptist Church is an important example of a new religious movement that was introduced into the island fifty years ago and has undergone transformation from a disparaged religious cult into a settled and accepted denomination. Appearing at a time when the island was a British colony, the founder appealed to the masses, who were suffering from material deprivation, economic hardship and a pervasive sense of hopelessness about their future. He set out new possibilities for the black underclass and evoked the idea that Jesus was black and that blacks had a rightful place in the kingdom of Heaven.
Ye Shall Dream is an insightful, richly illustrated biography of both the church and its founder, in the context of a Caribbean island country coming to terms with its post-colonial identity.
1 Framing the Narrative
2 The Cultural Context
3 Granville Williams: The Early Years
4 The Return to Barbados
5 On Faith and Ritual
6 On Visions, Possession and Symbols
7 On Spiritual Garments
8 Organizational Structure
9 Further Reflections on the Leader
10 Ye Shall Dream
“This book is a detailed study of the Spiritual Baptist tradition in Barbados and its development under the leadership of Patriarch Granville Williams. Using a multidisciplinary approach drawing on historical, anthropological and sociological perspectives and an ethnographic research methodology, the author has crafted a detailed account of the emergence of the traditions from its Trinidadian roots to its specifically Barbadian context.” – Carol B. Duncan, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada