Spiritual Baptist

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The Spiritual Baptist faith is a religion created by persons of African ancestry in the plantations they came to in the former British West Indies countries predominantly in the islands of a Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tobago and the Virgin Islands. It is syncretic Afro-Caribbean religion that combines elements of the many varied traditional African religions brought by the enslaved populations combined with Christianity. Spiritual Baptists consider themselves to be Christians.

The Baptist faith has a different beginning in the nation of Trinidad, as unlike the spiritual baptist tradition in the other countries where the religion developed in the plantations where the enslaved were sent, the religion in Trinidad was brought into the country by the Merikins, former American slaves who were recruited by the British to fight, as the Corps of Colonial Marines, against the Americans during the War of 1812. After the end of the war, these ex-slaves were settled in Trinidad, to the east of the Mission of Savannah Grande (now known as Princes Town) in six villages, since then called the Company Villages.[1][2]

These American settlers brought with them the Baptist faith of the Second Great Awakening combined with, in the case of those from Georgia, the Gullah culture. With the coming of missionaries of the Baptist Missionary Society from Great Britain, the Baptist faith in the Company Villages was much affected, but despite the ensuing schism between the so-called London Baptists and the rest, the Baptist congregations of the Company Villages, even including those with Gullah origins, retained so little visible African influence in their practice that John Hackshaw was able to give a different view of the Baptists in the north of the country:

"While those that settled in the 'Company Villages' were exposed to the Baptist Missionary Society's influence, those that settled in the North practiced their beliefs as brought from America with the inclusion of African religious practice and beliefs joined by those they met here which blossomed into the group now known as 'Spiritual Baptists'."[2]

The faith expanded to Barbados in 1957 as the Sons of God Apostolic Spiritual Baptists movement.[3] It now ranks as one of two indigenous religions in the country, the other being the Rastafari religion.[4] Archbishop Granville Williams, who was born in Barbados, lived for 16 years in Trinidad and Tobago, where he witnessed the local Spiritual Baptists. Becoming enthusiastic about the Trinidadian movement, he asserted that he had seen a vision and heard the voice of God. Upon returning to Barbados he held the first open-air meeting in Oistins, Christ Church. Due to a well received response in Barbados, he quickly established the Jerusalem Apostolic Spiritual Baptist Church in Ealing Grove. This church was quickly followed by Zion at Richmond Gap. As of 1999 the following in Barbados had reached around 1,900 and the Jerusalem church had been rebuilt to seat 3,000.


The local name of the Spiritual Baptist in Trinidad are called the Shouters which derives from the characteristic practice of the religion. Followers are very vocal in singing, praying, and preaching. However, shouter is seen as a derogatory term and the term spiritual is preferred due to the practice of invoking the Holy Spirit during worship.

Spiritual Baptists in St Vincent are locally called the shakers due to their practice of invoking the Holy Spirit during their praise and worship. Vincentian Baptists are also known colloquially as 'Converted', speaking to them being converted to Christianity during slavery.

Religious focus[edit]

The activities of the Spiritual Baptists in Trinidad and Tobago were prohibited in 1917 by the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance, which was eventually repealed in 1951. The late opposition parliamentarian Ashford Sinanan moved to repeal the ordinance under the PNM government and was successful. Today Spiritual Baptists can practise their religion freely. The United National Congress granted them a national holiday and also gave them land on which to establish their headquarters.

Typical attire[edit]

The colours of the headdress or clothes vary and represent the 'spiritual cities', the saints with which the individual most relates, or various qualities of belief.[5]


Men can wear a headwrap however the very top of the head is usually left uncovered. Men tend to wear a gown or short cassocks. Persons of higher rank (Shepherds, Reverends, Bishops, etc.) can wear a surplice over the gown.


  • Headtie – As mentioned in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 11:13, the dress, the apron, and cords, sashes, and or a belt as given in the Faith and are revealed as the individual increases knowledge along their spiritual journey.


In 1996 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago granted a public holiday to the Spiritual Baptist faith, to be celebrated on 30 March, called Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day, in memory of the struggle and in recognition of the repeal of the prohibition law.[6] Trinidad and Tobago is the only country that celebrates a public holiday for the Spiritual Baptist faith.

Shango Baptists[edit]

Shango Baptists was created in Trinidad and only practiced in Trinidad. It has no relation to the spiritual baptist religion. Shango is the practice of the Trinidad Orisha religion. In Trinidad, Orisha is also called Shango, and the term "Shango Baptist" is sometimes used to describe worshipers who are involved with both Spiritual Baptism and Orisha/Shango. The term "Shango Baptist" has come to have negative connotations for some worshippers of both Spiritual Baptism and Orisha/Shango, who argue that those who say "Shango Baptist" conflate the two religions, when in fact they are completely separate religions. As some have said, "There is no thing as Shango Baptist. Shango is Shango. Baptist is Baptist".[7] Others say that Shango Baptists simply "wear two hats"; their mixture of "Baptist and Orisha practices" is a result of similar oppression by colonial authorities in Trinidad.[8]

In practice, the Trinidad Orisha religion is not connected with the Spiritual Baptisms. Orisha worship services are not similar to and not held at the same locations as Spiritual Baptist churches.[9]

Places of worship of Spiritual Baptist[edit]


  • Children Of The Light Spiritual Baptist International Archdiocese Inc. (La Sagesse St. David's)
  • Mt. Paran S.B. Church (Grand Anse Vally)
  • Faith Deliverance S.B. Church (Woodlands)
  • Mt. Calvary S.B. Church (River Road)
  • Mt. Olive S.B. Church (Prospect)
  • Mt. Zion S.B. Church (Mt. Rodney)
  • Rock In The Weary Land S.B. Church (Coals Gap)
  • St Ann's Mystical Healing Chapel (Marigot, St John)


  • The Cathedral Church of Jerusalem – Ealing Grove, Christ Church
  • Beulah Temple – Bishops, St. Lucy
  • Zion Apostolic Temple – Richmond Gap, St. Michael
  • Jeremiah Spiritual Baptist Church, Enterprise Main Road, Christ Church


  • Sacred Heart Spiritual Baptist Church in Montreal, Quebec
  • The Shouters National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith International Centre (NESBF) in Toronto, Ontario
  • St. Theresa's Well of Life Spiritual Baptist Tabernacle Inc
  • The Council of Spiritual Baptist Elders of Canada

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[edit]

  • Mt. Olivet S.B. Church, (Layou)
  • St, Bethel S.B. Church, (Mt. Carmel)
  • St. Joseph S.B. Church
  • St. Mary's S.B. Church

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

  • Mt Prizgar Spiritual Baptist Church, Lp#1103 E.M.Rd, Manzanilla
  • Holy Faith Spiritual Baptist Tabernacle
  • Faith International Baptist Convention
  • St. Benedict Baptist Church, La Romaine
  • St. Peter's House of Prayer, Morvan
  • Mt Prizgar Spiritual Baptist Angels of God Archdiocese, Manzanilla

United States[edit]

  • Ark of the Covenant Spiritual Baptist Church – Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Angels of the New Jerusalem S.B.C. – Baltimore, Maryland
  • Bethlehem Church – Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • House of Esther Divine Ministries S.B.C; Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • Spirit Divine House of Melchizedek International S.C.Inc. Brooklyn New York
  • Mt. Pisgah S.B.C – Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Pillar of Fire Church – Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Sacred Heart of Jesus International S.B.C. – Washington, D.C.
  • Scarlet Cord Cathedral – New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • St. John's S.B.C – Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • St. Catherine #2 S.B.C. – Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • United Congregation El Behel – Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • Zion Apostolic S.B.C – Hyde Park, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Rock of Ages Spiritual Baptist Church(Lithonia Georgia)Panola Road

United Kingdom[edit]

  • Mt Moriah S.B.C. London (UK)
  • Melchisedec S.B.C. London (UK)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weiss, John McNish (2002). The Merikens: Free Black American Settlers in Trinidad, 1815–16.
  2. ^ a b Hackshaw, John M. n.d. (c. 1991). The Baptist Denomination: A Concise History Commemorating One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years (1816–1991) of the Establishment of the ‘Company Villages’ and the BAPTIST FAITH in Trinidad and Tobago. Amphy and Bashana Jackson Memorial Society.
  3. ^ Barbadians, Countries and Their Cultures.
  4. ^ Rastafarianism in Barbados
  5. ^ Staff writer (2016). "The Spiritual Baptists, an integral part of Crop Over". National Cultural Foundation of Barbados. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2019. Members wear colourful gowns, each colour symbolising a quality, with white for purity; cream for spirituality; blue for holiness; gold for royalty; green for strength; brown for happiness; silver-grey for overcoming; pink for success, and red for strength as well as symbolising the Blood of Christ.
  6. ^ Spiritual Baptists, National Library and Information System of Trinidad and Tobago
  7. ^ Lum, Kenneth Ant (2000). Praising His Name in the Dance: Spirit Possession in the Spiritual Baptist Faith and Orisha Work, Trinidad, West Indies. Psychology Press. p. 292.
  8. ^ Ashby, Glenville (28 June 2011). "Mahaba's Message". Trinidad & Tobago Guardian.
  9. ^ Bazinet, Ryan (2012). "Shango Dances Across the Water: Music and the Re-Construction of Trinidadian Orisha in New York City". In Kamille Gentles-Peart; Maurice L. Hall (eds.). Re-Constructing Place and Space: Media, Culture, Discourse and the Constitution of Caribbean Diasporas. Cambridge Scholars Press. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2012-10-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day, Trinidad and Tobago National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS).
  • Glazier, Stephen D. (ed.), Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions, Routledge, 2001.
  • Shepherd, King. 5 Aug 2014. The Rituals & Rudiments of the Spiritual Baptist Church - The Apostle of Faith, Interview, Youtube.com
  • Duncan, Carol B. This Spot of Ground: the Spiritual Baptists in Toronto. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008.
  • Gall, Timothy L. (ed). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Culture & Daily Life: Vol. 2 - Americas. Cleveland, Ohio: Eastword Publications Development (1998); pp. 76–77.
  • Glazier, Stephen D. Marching the Pilgrims Home: Leadership and Decision-Making in an Afro Baptist Faith Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
  • Glazier, Stephen D. 1999. "The Noise of Astonishment: Spiritual Baptist Music in Context", in John W. Pulis (ed.), Religion, Diaspora, and Cultural Identity: A Reader in the Anglophone Caribbean, New York and Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, pp. 277–294.
  • Glazier, Stephen D. 1996. "Changes in the Spiritual Baptist Religion, 1976-1990", in Manfred Kremser (ed.), Ay BoBo: Afro-Caribbean Cults: Identity and Resistance. Teil 1: Kulte. Wien: Institut fur Volkerkunde der Universitat Wien, pp. 107–114.
  • Glazier, Stephen D. 1993. "Responding to the Anthropologist: When the Spiritual Baptists of Trinidad Read What I Write About Them", in Caroline B. Brettell (ed.), When They Read What We Write: The Politics of Ethnography. New York: Bergin and Garvey, pp. 37–48.
  • Keeney, Bradford. Shakers of St. Vincent. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Ringing Rocks Press, 2002.
  • Scott, Caroline 1999. Insight Guide Barbados. Discovery Channel and Insight Guides; fourth edition, Singapore, p. 85, ISBN 0-88729-033-7.
  • Zane, Wallace W. 1999. Journeys to the Spiritual Lands: the Natural History of a West Indian Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

External links[edit]