Iconic Jamaican entertainer Beenie Man is building a church in the inner-city community of Waterhouse in St Andrew, with the intention of not only giving residents there another place of worship, but also for them to have greater access to social amenities such as computers and a library.
“It nuh have nothing to do with moving on to a religion. My religion is Rastafarian, and that is it,” Beenie Man said.
As a child, the entertainer attended church at the same spot where the new church is being constructed. An old board structure which occupied the spot was flattened during the passage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church holds a special place in the heart of Beenie Man, whose real name is Anthony Moses Davis.
“It is a church that I grew up in and it blow down after hurricane passed through. The only thing left to go on now is the top, but mi did a plan to put a library on the top because it is a community church and the youth dem need something to do,” he said.
The church is being built at Unity Lane off Balcombe Drive, an area which Beenie Man describes as “the most violent part of Waterhouse.”
“Me have two youth that born around there and that’s where I come from,” he said.
But block by block, the King of the Dancehall has set about rebuilding the church that played a critical role in his development. Beenie Man said he began construction of the church shortly after it was damaged in the hurricane, but notes that the construction was slowed down significantly not only as a result of his focus on other philanthropic projects, but because material purchased and stored in the area was stolen by members of the community.
Roughly $2.4 million has so far been spent in labour and materials to the completion of the church. It is estimated that another $4 million will need to be raised in order to finish it.
“Mi love God in every way and mi will praise him in every name. It is not about Christianity, and I’m not trying to baptise. Selassie nuh need fi do that. You see true my mother a Christian and everybody know, but my church is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.”
Reverend Everald Galbraith, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, told The Weekend Star that he welcomes the contribution Beenie Man is making to the Christian community as an upstanding citizen, irrespective of his own religious beliefs.
“I don’t see the church having a problem with it. The fact is, where the church is concerned in terms of financial donation, it is always based on the source of funding, and how you got your funding,” he began.
“As far as I know, Beenie Man is a musician and artiste who does concerts and public appearances – no doubt for a cost – so I wouldn’t disbelieve that his money comes from his work,” he said.