A bishop entering politics? Dr Purcell Jackson tells whySunday, August 02, 2020
BY HG HELPS
WITH the Bible as his sword, Bishop Dr Purcell Jackson decided to step into the lion's den of politics, knowing well the consequences that one slip can bring.
But the Doncaster, East Kingston-born man of the cloth has no fear of what the unfamiliar turf will throw up as he prepares for a fight with vibrant Annmarie Vaz in the Portland Eastern seat in near-general election season. Confirmed recently as the People's National Party (PNP) candidate tasked to wrest a one-time PNP fiefdom from green acres to one he would call the promised land, Bishop Jackson is already set for whatever comes his way.
But what would have motivated this most senior churchman to go to war on a turf that pushes up the antenna of repulsion and vulgarity in some homes?
“Politics in and of itself is not repulsive or vulgar. I see politics as an extension of my church activities,” Bishop Jackson kicked back. “I had an offer before but the timing was not right, what with Bible school and family to attend to. But the right party offered this time around, and I decided that there would be conditions, and outlined them,” he said.
Among the conditions he insisted on was that he would not leave his church, God's Way Assembly Ministries, with headquarters in east Kingston and branches in Montego Bay, Mandeville, St Catherine, and west Portland; and he would not stoop to the levels of “dirty” politics that had consumed a large part of the Jamaican landscape. He interjected during talks with the party that he would unreservedly care for his people, especially those who are marginalised, and his word would be his bond... with no empty promises made.
“My motto is 'With Jackson People Matter'. I have been a Christian from age 10 and a pastor for 29 years, so I know people,” stated the son of Bishop Purcell Jackson Sr, now deceased, the church's founder who was president of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches. “All the jobs I ever had before the church was about people. I was into food sales, insurance sales, teaching at a prep school... I love people and want to make their lives better. Coming from a poor background myself, I meet with the common man and show them how to lead that better quality of life,” he said.
The Windward Road Primary and Kingston College (KC) old boy, now 52, knows that he cannot shed certain habits among potential voters, like buying out the bar and forking out money to take care of some of the needs of constituents. In fact, he is not even prepared to challenge what has become a staple on the “licky licky” road.
“That's another cultural flaw in the church, where people believe that as a man of the cloth, as a Christian, you stay away from people who visit bars, for example. I preached a message some years ago called Separated, not Isolated. Jesus Christ walked with the common man. I can count on one hand the number of well-to-do people that Christ ever walked with. His disciples were common men loud, obnoxious he called them and transformed them over a period. He was called Beelzebub by the religious groups of the day – the Pharisees and Sadducees – that he walked with publicans and sinners.
“Jesus Christ said those who are whole don't need a doctor, you need a doctor if you are sick. Hanging on the corner with some guys will probably transform them, not just about politics, but other aspects of their life. So smokers, drinkers... you have to reach them too. Who best to advocate for people's rights than a man of God,” the Fairy Hill, Portland, resident said.
He has “full support” from his immediate family, siblings, and the church members. Wife and co-pastor of the church, Donnette, has been described as “the best thing to have happened” to him. “My wife is the glue that holds the family together. Ministry can take you away from your family and from what matters most in respect of how the family pulls together. I would not have reached so far without my wife. She is the bedrock in the family... a person I can always lean on and trust. She has good judgement, is sober, knows what she wants and keeps pushing you. Thank God I have a wife like her.”
Older brother, former KC discus and shot put champion Norman Jackson, known as Big Head in high school, heads a branch of the church in the Buff Bay Valley, while his, Bishop Jackson's, older daughter is an executive at one of Jamaica's large financial institutions, and another daughter and son at university are on the “ground” with him when time allows.
Bishop Jackson holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in theology, and is also a huge football man, who played as a striker on the Mile Gully football team in Manchester for the nine years that he lived there, and rolls the ball and cooks with youth on the corner when he is on the campaign trail.
He will vie for a seat that was once held by medical practitioner Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, now deceased, whom he described as the “sweetheart” of the constituency, whose death resulted in several people deciding not to vote in the by-election of last year, but whom he believes will vote again in the next general election.
Apart from playing football, the fitness-enthusiast Bishop does weightlifting and jogging.
As for Vaz, Bishop Jackson revealed his admiration for her. “I definitely love and respect my opponent. We are mere servants of the people, representing different parties. The other day when I heard she was admitted to the Tony Thwaites wing at the University Hospital I sent her my sympathies and said we are praying for you, get well soon.”
The response to his candidacy has been better than expected, he would state, and he is now working on ways of getting financial support to run the campaign.
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