The Anglican Church and Bahamian cultural identity: the role of Church-sponsored education, prayer book liturgy and Anglo-Catholic rituals in the development of Bahamian culture 1784-1900
Sands, Kirkley Caleb
The arrival and settlement of the Loyalists and their slaves in The Bahamas in 1784 effected a social, economic, and cultural revolution in this British Colony.With the establishment of the Dioceses of Barbados and Jamaica in 1824, there dawned in The Bahamas, a part of the Diocese of Jamaica until 1861, a process of Anglicisation hitherto unknown. As the raison d'etre of its established Episcopal form of Church Government and in anticipation of slave emancipation in 1834, the Anglican Church was charged with the responsibility of preparing slaves in the British West Indies for responsible citizenship. The method employed was a process of civilisation and conversion. The means were the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Church-sponsored English education.Through its educational system, however, the Church launched an assault on the culture and the identity of the Bahamian masses. By means of this system, the hierarchically structured world view of the English was substituted for the slaves' traditional West African world view. This initiated a process of destabilisation and trivialisation which could not but undermine Bahamian cultural identity.Yet, the meeting of the Evangelical and the Tractarian traditions in the Anglican Church in The Bahamas, and the Anglo-Catholic rituals which followed in the wake of the Tractarian Movement and climaxed by 1900 were able to accommodate powerful religious symbols originating in the African past.Through its education, liturgy and Anglo-Catholic rituals, therefore, the Anglican Church facilitated and nurtured a Bahamian cultural identity which was consistent with both traditional West African religious culture and the evolving tradition of Bahamian Anglicanism.