Speak in tongues no more

numerous strange occurrences in which children fainted during morning devotions at different schools, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards has called for the speaking of tongues during worship exercises at institutions to be prohibited.

Discussions surrounding the speaking of tongues were raised on October 26, when students of the Oberlin High School in St Andrew fell to the ground and started behaving strangely during a religious exercise at the institution. The frightening ordeal forced school to be dismissed early.

On Friday, the Jamaica Observer received reports that have not yet been confirmed by administrators of the Merl Grove High School in St Andrew, that students at the institution were affected in a similar way during morning devotions on Thursday.

Attempts to get a response from the school on the matter did not materialise. Chairman of the school board, David Hall, told the Sunday Observer on Friday that he was unaware of the incident. However, students reported to parents that the incident occurred.

“If the prayer is an emotive one, especially involving tongues, it can elicit a particular kind of response and so I think that in such situations, general devotions with over 600 children without persons involved on ministry understanding the dynamic that is part of the experience, you should restrict speaking in tongues,” the archbishop said on Friday.

He pointed out that speaking in tongues is an activity that charismatic and Pentecostal movements use during prayer. He described it as effective but pointed out that schools lack the necessary guidance and experience to manage such a practice. Despite his views on speaking in tongues, Richards does not agree with a ban on prayers in schools.

“It is effective prayer but sometimes people might be having various challenges they are dealing with, so it kind of excites and creates a particular response where persons need somebody to guide and minister to them. Sometimes people get physically expressive. If you have a big group, people are going to be in varying emotional states and consciousness with respect to spirituality.

“If it elicits that kind of response, persons are not there to minister to them and guide them through the experience. Administrations need to seek counselling from church leaders to give guidance to schools. I don’t think we should wholesale lockdown devotions with a knee-jerk response, but get the necessary guidance from ministers who can give direction and assist school administrations. I don’t think taking steps to prevents prayers in schools is going to be productive.”

With recommendations from Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams, devotion was halted at Oberlin High. Williams said that instead of mass devotions, the exercise should be confined to individual classrooms and not in the auditorium.

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