Protestantism in Jamaica

As anyone in a predominantly Protestant country probably knows, the number of different Protestant faiths can be staggering. More than half of Jamaica's population claims ties to one of these denominations.

Jamaica's modern history played an important role in the religious diversification of this island's population. Though many British settlers were Anglican, they were part of the smaller, plantation-owning class. Missionaries taught a number of other Protestant beliefs to the slaves, who also held tightly to their own African beliefs.

Baptist and Methodist pastors led groups of former slaves after they had been emancipated. These groups combined African beliefs and spiritualism with the beliefs of the Protestant church to create the Revivalist church. In Revivalist ceremonies, spiritual possession is not far from the regular church activities.

Revivalist churches have since split into two categories: Zion and Pukkumina. Zion bands, as they call themselves, deal primarily with heavenly spirits (God, archangels, and saints) and earth bound spirits (prophets and apostles).

Ground spirits (which are not earth bound spirits), including fallen angels, are considered evil and are not dealt with by the Zion bands. Pukkumina bands deal almost exclusively with such spirits, including the human dead, excluding those from the Bible, and do not regard them as evil.

In more modern times, these Revivalist bands have made their homes among Pentecostal churches. Although they are not a major part of current religious culture, they have strongly influenced the music and singing styles found in churches throughout the island, as well as in popular music such as reggae and dancehall.

More religious changes came to Jamaica when a number of groups from the U.S. entered the island. Encouraged to send missionaries to the island, the Church of God and the Brethren each sent believers, further expanding the number of religious groups on Jamaica.

Throughout history, the dominant religious groups on the island have gone through a number of changes. Today, the people of Jamaica remain very religious, with most of them adhering to Protestant denominations.


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