Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston is certainly not averse to having fun. But it is clear that he balances this with his mission, which is the preaching of the gospel, said a Jamaica Gleaner report.
Singing is one of the things that the archbishop does quite well.
According to an interview with The Sunday Gleaner January 16, from as far back as 1995, Archbishop Richards had reworked the lyrics to the Bounty Killer classic, ‘Miss Ivy Last Son’, and has been performing on special occasions.
His celebrity status took off recently when he debuted his version of this classic, during the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (CN, January 16).
He substituted his own lyrics urging listeners to Run come up inna di church now, bwoy/Listen to the gospel, bwoy/Siddung pon di church bench/And yuh life will change.
The brouhaha that followed, while not unexpected, was unprecedented for the Archbishop because as he pointed out, it was not the first time he was performing the track.
“I use it periodically— when the occasion arises. The first time was at Ghetto Splash [a popular, inner-city stage show], and I do it at funerals for persons who were gunslingers. The reaction is usually pretty much like now, but this time it was overwhelming,” Archbishop Richards told The Gleaner.
Although he wouldn’t describe himself as a Bounty Killer fan, he has used another song from Bounty Killer’s catalogue to promote peace.
“‘Look Into my Eyes’ has a powerful message. I have used it in inner-city programmes and at the UN Day Against Racism and Discrimination. It is important to connect with the people and use the symbols and the positive elements of the culture to do this. I have used Whitney Houston’s ‘Greatest Love of All’ as well,” he said.
Archbishop Richards noted that using the culture to communicate is essential to evangelism. He has done stage shows with dancehall artistes who have converted to Christianity and used these events to promote peace in some of the communities in which he has pastored.
“You need to know the culture and the social behaviours that are linked to it. A lot of the music is message music — negative sometimes, but positive sometimes. When I was pastoring in Waterhouse during the ‘war’ years, I would attend the street dances and take the mic and pray for peace in the community. I remember the first dance I went [to]. I reached at about 10.30 p.m., and nobody was there. They told me that I had to come at about 1.30 a.m. So, I went home and set my alarm clock and was back at the designated time. After a while, when they were planning these events, I would be invited to come and pray,” he shared.
The Archbishop admits that his role as archbishop means that he is preoccupied with administration and has far less time to be on the ground interacting with youngsters and even learning the latest dancehall tunes. But he is really just focused on leading wherever he is placed.
Archbishop Richards’ latest project is a violence-prevention programme for which he is seeking funding. He is also arranging an exhibition of artwork from the scriptures at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
“I enjoy being a servant of the Lord and of the Church and to proclaim the gospel through whatever medium. Whatever the Church asks me to do, I accept without reservation,” he said.