ON REFLECTION -Fading voice of gospel
AN IMMEASURABLE INJUSTICE has been done to Barbados’ Christian community and to others who prefer to listen to gospel music, and other aspects of ministry, by the removal of that precise element – even in part – from the 97.5 FM radio station.
For people who were going through the gamut of “valleys” and emotional issues that strike us all; at times when love songs, calypso and soca just did not soothe the spirit but rather threatened to drive some suffering individuals closer to the limit of sanity, Gospel 97.5 was like an oasis in an expansive stretch of radioland that lacked the water of spiritually and emotionally uplifting material.
Amid the clutter of noise that passes for variety across music genres and sends confusing signals as to what truly is our culture, Barbadians and other listeners abroad once had something to “light their way”. No more.
Today the voices of goodly pastors like Ferdinand Nicholls, reverends Tony and Vibert Lowe and others have been virtually silenced from the airwaves to make way for a new super station.
And I say “silenced” because we listeners were promised much of the same gospel fare to which we had become accustomed for nearly two decades since the days of Gospel 790 on the AM band. But today’s 97.5 Super Station seems to be offering a surfeit of popular regional “wuk-up” music mainly.
In fact, the times I tune in always seem to be wrong since 97.5’s daily diet tastes little different from that of most other stations that offer soca, reggae and R&B. Not that I don’t like these genres; I love them – but not on a former gospel station where, as I understood it, some aspects of Christian ministry would still officially have had a place.
What’s even more alarming, though, is that the Christian community is saying nothing about losing the one voice they had on mainstream radio. Maybe online gospel stations like Pulse 365 are enough for them.
Probably satisfied with the sterling service of the Starcom Network – which must be praised from the dawn of its gift of Gospel 790 to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to its switch to the FM band in 2007 – the Christian community which has criticized issues ranging from Crop Over to cricket, from Rihanna to reggae, from homosexuality to hairstyles, has now withdrawn into itself and only peeked out recently when one journalist rapped the knuckles of some radio preachers for bellowing into our living rooms.
This Gospel 97.5 station was utitlized to lambaste issues such as The Experience tent and Walk Holy band; it was used for preachers to cry foul on others of the cloth for varying reasons; it was used to rightly decry efforts to decriminalize prostitution. Yet, at the demise of the most credible gospel station in Barbados, there has not been a peep from the most outspoken of Christians and Christian leaders, except for one letter to the newspapers.
What has made the church so silent, pray tell? Is it the fact that their leaders were wrong in affirming that the late former Prime Minister would be healed less than a year ago? Are they smarting so much from the blows of one commentator who criticized certain evangelists for “commanding” God back in 2010?
God is sovereign and does what He wishes in His own time, and once church leaders understand that, there would be no need for them to cower in the face of criticism.
Many also strongly disagreed with various ministers on Gospel 97.5. So what? At least they all had a forum to spread the Word.
One of the things I, personally, valueis the ability to hear the Word of God being preached; for while we take reading material for granted, there’s nothing like hearing the Word being taught. Hence the dubbing of the Gospel as the Good News by people to whom reading material was precious and hard to come by in the first century, I guess.
Gospel 97.5 also comprised much of my drive-time listening, except during periods of Crop Over when I enjoyed the latest social commentaries – and even then, the station played its unique part in the festival by giving airplay to calypso songs from the Christian-based tents and lending popularity to the compositions of Ronnie De Announcer Clarke, ironically one of the driving forces behind the gospel station, as well as Dragon Slayer, Sammi Jane, Enobong, Apache and Hee Haw, to name a few.
Beyond music, Gospel 97.5 used to be a forum for children to sing and tell of their love for God, as well as for minister and lay preacher alike to wax warm on nearly every issue under the sun.
Imagine today, with so much going on in our country politically, no minister has this popular listening forum to remind us that the leaders in this country need to look again and again at Barbados’ image.
Imagine hardly any comment from the clergy or laity on burning matters of immigration and the treatment of strangers, which is actually biblical, since God commanded the “children of Israel” not to “mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt”.
Imagine, in the midst of a society where people are willing to accept doctrines driven by larger societies which have long lost their way, there’s no longer a forum – a gospel radio station – for those who wish to live by the code of God’s Word.
The fact that this, the removal of a gospel station, is retrogressive for this society must be acknowledged.