I was pleased to hear of the scaled-down August Emancipation Festival programme to one of more cultural significance.

On the day of its announcement, my devotional reading (BRF with Barbara Mosse) emphasised the significance of remembering and celebrating those significant events in the past that have established our culture and our faith and redefined our relationship with God. I was therefore compelled to share the biblical teaching on the subject, which could be a guide for further scaling down next year.

The teaching also confirms the message carried in the chapter on “Cultural Presence in August Festival” on page 97 of my 2014 book, This Land: A Trust From God. Readers will recall suggestions made there.

Festival’s origins

When we consider that our Emancipation Festival had its origin in the church, we ought to get back in line.

One of the several historical examples of celebrating the national memory is recorded in Exodus 12:1-20. Before the Israelites departed Egypt, God gave Moses and Aaron precise instructions for the meal that later would be celebrated as the Passover, and urged on them the duty and importance of the national memory: “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

The elder of 2nd John 5-6 stresses the importance of preserving the national memory in that he instructed the people to remember the commandment “you have heard from the beginning.”

Similarly, Christians worldwide have continued to remember and celebrate the Last Supper and the instructions of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me.”

We are sometimes asked why do we go to church. C.S. Lewis responded that he went in order to remind himself of who — and whose — he was.

The pace of life today is jet-like, and many of us lead stressful and fractured lives.

“We can all benefit from acts of remembrance, whether privately or communally. Such acts have the potential to anchor us more deeply in our culture, in God, and to re-order our priorities in the light of His love.”

Giving thanks

Our August Emancipation Festival should be a time of remembering and thanksgiving. It should not be a bacchanaal.

It is a time to tell and retell the stories that gave our ancestors courage to overcome, to cross over, and to pass on their legacy that is ours today. We should enact the stories and events regularly in all art forms: drama, poetry, song and dance.

While we do not condone bacchanaal and vulgarity in the parade, those who insist upon them should find their own space and time, but should not be allowed to indulge under the auspices of our Emancipation Festival.

The programme should enact significant historical events, and the floats and troupes in the parade should portray our heroes and heroines and all that was good and useful in bygone days.

They should have us looking forward to a positive future, indicating ways of caring for and improving the environment — e.g. illustrating the value of wind and sun technology; explaining the proper ways of disposing of garbage; promoting a healthy community and so on.

They should speak to us of the wonder of God’s creation and His love for us.

Deuteronomy 32:7 urges us, “Remember the days of old, the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you.”