Rier, Carl P.

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Rier, Carl P.

January 23, 1863
April 14, 1917

Carl P. Rier, who eventually became a Baptist minister, was born in Paramaribo to Jannie Rier and Elizabeth Helena Daalen, who were converts to the Moravian Brotherhood. After limited secondary schooling at the Van Meerten School, he followed in his father's footsteps, working as a carpenter from 1878 to 1888. Then despite bitter opposition from his father, he moved to Demerara, in British Guiana, to work as a plantation supervisor, and he remained abroad for several years. It was during this period that he first joined a local church affiliated with the newly formed American National Baptist Convention, the largest association of black Baptists in the United States. In 1890 Rier returned to Paramaribo and joined the Free Gospel Church (Vrije Evangelisatie ), a Moravian sect that had been started by Moses Salomo Bromet in 1889. Rier assisted Bromet in his work, and it was in this church that he married Louisa Elisabeth Dunfries on January 25, 1893. They were to have eight children, four boys and four girls.

Around 1898 Rier left the Free Gospel Church, in part because he was not allowed to preach in Sranan (or Sranang, a creole language spoken in Suriname) which he hoped would help him to reach the lower classes. Cornelius Blijd, the first Surinamer to attain the rank of deacon in the Moravian Brotherhood, was among several others who also departed Bromet's church at that juncture. Rier led this group in founding the Suriname Baptist Congregation (Surinaamsche Baptist Gemeente ) in 1898, but the others soon departed. His financial condition improved at this time through an inheritance left to him upon the death of his father. (While his father had earlier disinherited him because of opposition to Rier's new religious persuasion, in the end he left his son a conciliatory will.) The additional resources enabled Rier to remodel his house and open part of it as the church meeting hall in February 1899. By 1900 the congregation had twenty members and ran a Sunday school, but it then dissolved over an internal dispute concerning finances. Rier then joined a church in Paramaribo associated with the National Baptist Convention. In 1903 he passed the examinations in the theological seminary of that congregation and was sent to the United States to be formally ordained as a minister. His Baptist congregation in Paramaribo never flourished, however, mainly because of difficulties experienced while he was away. For example, there was dissension over finances, and no one else was willing to continue preaching in Sranan. Nevertheless, for the final thirteen years of his life he was to continue to use the church as a platform for the advocacy of social concerns in the black community. His congregation, which at its high point may have just exceeded one hundred, had dwindled to low double digits by the end of his life. In 1908 he sent his eldest son, John P. Rier, to the United States to be educated to become a Baptist minister; but the latter chose to remain there to pursue his career, rather than to return to work with his father as the elder Rier had hoped. Rier's wife, Louisa, died suddenly in 1909. His second marriage, to Sophie Elisa Meeren on August 16, 1911, produced no children. Sophie died on March 7, 1917; Rier soon followed on April 14. He was buried in Lina's Rust Cemetery in Paramaribo. In his will he left his church sufficient funds to purchase a building on Zwartenhovenbrughstraat.

Rier was, by all accounts, a fiery orator, and he preached and wrote Bible passages and church songs in Sranan, some his own compositions. Some of his brief, didactic writings were used in the public schools as well as those of the Moravians. Harking back to emancipation from slavery, a persistent theme throughout his career, was the theme of social and spiritual emancipation for the black population. Sounding at times like his North American contemporary Booker T. Washington, whose example he liked to cite, and like Washington, addressing both blacks and a wider audience, Rier emphasized the work ethic in his teachings. One of his main proposals centered on the need for black Surinamers to engage in agriculture, which both the history of the colony and urbanization had conditioned them to avoid. Unlike Washington, however, Rier emphasized connection with Africa, usually preferring the term "Ethiopia[n]." He was a precursor of later full-blown black nationalists.

See also Baptists; Moravian Church


Abbenhuis, Fr. M. F.. "Carel Paulus Rier 18631917." In Emancipatie: 18631963. Paramaribo: Surinaamse historische Kring, Lionarons, 1964. Translation from the Dutch available at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Neus, N. C. J. "25th Commemoration of the Surinaamsche Baptist Gemeente; Biography of the late Rev. C.P. Rier, Founder and Pastor of the Surinaamsche Baptist Gemeente." Unpublished biographical sketch delivered as a speech by Neus in Paramaribo in 1924. Translation from the Dutch available from Rier Collection, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Yoder, Hilda van Neck. "Surinam's Cultural Memory: of Crown and Knife." CLA Journal 24 (1980): 173183.

allison blakely (2005)