History The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was formed following a historic ceremony held on the grounds of Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica on 13th December 1992. This ceremony marked the union of the Disciples of Christ in Jamaica and the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman. It also was another step in a journey to fulfil, what we believe is God’s will for the life and witness of His Church. The journey began as far back as the 1880s when efforts were made to bring about union between the then United Presbyterian and Congregational Churches operating in Jamaica. The first complete step was made on 1st December 1965 when the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica and the Congregational Union of Jamaica became one Church, the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
The Congregationalists firmly believed that only two things were necessary to make a Church. Christ, the Head of the Church, and a group of people who believe in Him, associated together to worship and serve Him and for fellowship with each other. In the course of history this tended to be obscured, but when the Reformation started, leading to the Bible being accessible to all who were willing to read it and discover its riches for themselves, light began to break forth. Some Congregationalists were so unyielding in their demand to be permitted to worship God as their consciences dictated that they were willing to suffer as martyrs. They believed in services of simple worship, they did not believe in a hierarchy of Bishop, Priest, systems of Church Courts, but that the government of the affairs of the church are in the hands of individual members under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The early beginnings Congregationalism in Jamaica began in 1834 with the arrival of six missionaries from the London Missionary Society, which was formed in 1795 as a non-denominational missionary agency. They were: Messrs. Woolridge, Hodge, Barrett, Slayter, Vine and Alloway. The first four settled on the southern side of the Island and covered ground between Kingston and Manchester, the other two went to the north covering St. Ann and Trelawny. The Four Paths United Church is regarded as the oldest of the former Congregational Churches on the Island, with work being started by Rev. Barrett in December 1834, Brixton Hill in 1836 and at Chapleton in 1838 where a school was also started. Rev. Woolridge started work in Kingston in the Papine area. This work eventually led to the formation of a school and to what became North Street United in 1837. The work at Shortwood also grew out of Rev. Woolridge’s efforts. Rev. Slayter commenced work at Whitfield and Davyton in 1835 and Ridgemount in 1837. At the same time Revs. Alloway and Vine began work at Dry Harbour (now Discovery Bay) in 1837 and in Trelawny, on the Arcadia Estate where the First Hill congregation was formed in 1835. The missionaries followed the ex-slaves into the hills away from the centres of population and under difficult circumstances quite frequently suffering opposition, they spread the Gospel. Congregations such as Sunbury, Long Look, Mahoe Hill, and Main Ridge in the hills of Manchester and Clarendon are testimony to these efforts. The work progressed and established itself, as the missionaries engaged themselves in the life of communities. Where they saw the needs, schools were started, and in the case of Rev. William Gardner minister of the North Street United Church, the Kingston Benefit Building Society, The Freeman Chapel Provident Society, and a book centre called Society for the Promotion of Pure Literature were formed. Progress in their efforts led to the gradual withdrawal of the London Missionary Society (LMS) and the formation of The Congregational Union on 28th February 1877. In July 1891 the First International Congregational Council was held. The Congregational Unions of England and Wales and the National Congregational Council of the United States sponsored it, while the Jamaican Union was represented by Rev. James Watson of Porus. The Congregational Union of Jamaica can be credited with the sending of missionaries to Central Africa in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. J.H.E. Hemans of Porus; they sailed from England in 1887. This, in addition to the community work of Rev. Gardner mentioned earlier, the formation of schools including Clarendon College in 1945, stands as testimony to the spirit of outreach that conceived and guided the work of the Congregational Union. This same spirit was brought into the union in 1965 and exists in the new church today.
The History of the Three Antecedents: Part 2 The Disciples of Christ in Jamaica The movement known as the “Disciples of Christ” or “Christian Church” was born in America shortly after the American Revolution, and is today one of the major Protestant denominations in the United States. There were two main streams of this movement. One started in Kentucky in 1803 under Barton Stone; a Presbyterian Minister who formed a group called “Christians”. The other stream was started in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1809 by Thomas and Alexander Campbell who were Irish Presbyterians. They took the name “Disciples of Christ”. The two streams came together in Lexington, Kentucky in 1832 and formed one movement which became known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Campbell‘s motto for the Disciples movement was: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity”.
In 1839 five men from Oberlin College in Ohio, United States came as missionaries to Jamaica; they proceeded to the hills of St. Andrew, the village of Metcalfe now Lawrence Tavern. They established a church community called Oberlin named after their Alma-Mater. Among this group of men was Julius Beardslee who worked as a Congregational missionary for seventeen years serving Oberlin, Mt. Regale in St. Mary and North Street Congregational, before returning to the United States in 1855. In 1858 Beardslee returned to Jamaica under the auspices of the American Christian Missionary Society having identified himself with the Disciples of Christ. It is of importance to note here that similar missions were attempted in Liberia and Jerusalem. Neither of these survived. This makes the work in Jamaica the oldest mission of the Disciples of Christ anywhere in the world. The work began on May 9, 1858 at Christian Chapel located at 48 Church St. Kingston. Forty years later the congregation relocated to 70 Duke St. Kingston and became known as Duke St. Christian Church. Though the work by Beardslee at Oberlin is older, Duke St. remains the oldest Disciples of Christ building and work outside of England and the United States.On March 25, 1860 the work at New Bethel, Dallas in St. Andrew, was started by Beardslee. The Growth of the Movement between the 1870s to the 1950s over thirty congregations were either formed or joined the movement. Among those joining were Kings Gate, Salisbury Plains, Mount Industry and Fairy Hill, all with either Baptist or Methodist connections. Among those started are listed Torrington, Mount Olivet , Providence , Pretoria Road and Friendship Brook. Significant workers of the period include: Revds. E. A. Edwards, E. W. Hunt, C. S. Shirley, his son H. S. Shirley, C. E. Randall, R. G. Nelson and A. Allan. The laity was not outdone in this effort of establishing the work; among them can be named Miss. Gladys M. Harrison, Director of Christian Education and Bro. Tom Lawrence of Craigmill. The fervour and challenges of the period led to the realization of a dream of a school conceived as early as 1877. In January 1946, Oberlin High School, formerly called, ” Christian College “, was founded by Rev. and Mrs. A. Allan with three students; by the years-end, this had increased to seven.
During the 1950s the Disciples of Christ in Jamaica achieved local autonomy, Rev. Herbert Shirley became the first Executive Secretary and Mr. Horace McKay the treasurer. In 1974 by an Act of Parliament the Disciples of Christ in Jamaica became a legal Corporation. All titles and properties held by the United Christian Missionary Society were handed over to the Church in Jamaica. The Disciples of Christ in Jamaica brings to this United Church a tradition of co-operation with other churches and an active engagement in the development and consolidation of institutions and Churches. These include: The United Theological College of the West Indies, The Jamaican Church Union Commission, out of which grew the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman. A founding member of the Jamaica Council of Churches, The Caribbean Conference of Churches and The Jamaica Ecumenical Mutual Mission (JEMM), it was also a party to the establishment of the Rennock Lodge, Boulevard, and Castleton Community Churches.
The History of the Three Antecedents: Part 3 Presbyterianism in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Presbyterianism was born in Europe out of a desire for new theological teaching and a growing dissatisfaction with the Roman Catholic Church. The period known as the Reformation or the “Protestant Reformation” was a time of strife and victimization for those opposed to the Roman Catholic Church. Presbyterianism as part of the Reformed Tradition was founded on the following beliefs: · That God in Christ is sovereign over everything in the life of the individual and nation. · The importance of teaching that the bible is the sole authority of the Christian faith. · That Christians must be involved in all aspects of life including Government and civil issues. adapted from : Souvenir magazine, Union Synod 1992) Early Beginnings Presbyterianism came to Jamaica in 1800 when the Scottish Missionary Society a non-denominational agency founded in 1796, dispatched three missionaries to Jamaica in the persons of Messrs. W. Clark, E. Reid and Rev. James Bethune (Church of Scotland). They encountered much opposition from the planters and the work was further hindered by the death of Bethune and Clark from fever. An invitation, extended to the Society by two planters in Trelawny in 1823, provided another opportunity for work among the slaves. Rev. George Blyth was appointed and he arrived in Hampden in 1824. By 1828, he had erected a substantial stone structure, and 70 persons gathered for the Lord’s Supper; the work was on its way, making Hampden the oldest work of the United Presbyterian Church in Jamaica. In 1827 two other missionaries came to Jamaica, Rev. James Watson, who worked at Lucea and Green Island and Rev. John Chamberlain who started work at Port Maria. Quickly following after them was Rev. Hope Waddell, in 1829, who came to Mount Zion. He was followed by Rev. John Simpson and Rev. John Cowan; Simpson went to Green Island then Port Maria, Cowan went to Carron Hall. These early days were not without trouble, noted among them was a plot that was uncovered to tar and feather Watson and run him out of town and two attempts to burn down the Hampden church. All this was being done at the instigation of the Colonial Church Union, an association determined to persecute and expel missionaries. This did not deter the missionaries, they appealed to their Synod for more workers and in 1835 Rev. James Paterson and Rev. William Niven arrived. Paterson, after working in Montego Bay for a few months, went to Manchester, where by 1837 forty-five persons were observing the Lord’s Supper and the foundations of the New Broughton church was laid. Niven settled twelve miles from Lucea and named his station Stirling. These missionaries though working for the Scottish Missionary Society were Ministers of the United/Secession Presbyterian Church. Excursis: The Two Presbyterian Streams It must be noted that two different Presbyterian streams began work in the island during the early 19th Century. There were missionaries from the Church of Scotland, and Missionaries from the United Secession/Presbyterian Church. These distinctions came about because of schisms or disagreements within the church. “The principal separation churches were the Secession Church of 1733, The Relief Church of 1761, and the Free Church of 1843″ (Colliers Encyclopedia vol. 6, p.418). All were Presbyterian Churches and separate from the Church of Scotland. The Relief Church and the Secession Church became one in 1847 and became the United Presbyterian Church. This had a positive impact on the work in Jamaica. Another Union took place in 1900 with the Free Church leading to the United Free Church of Scotland. In 1929 a union of all these separate Churches took place.
In 1836 missionaries of the United Secession Church and missionaries of the Scottish Missionary Society came together in Montego Bay and formed a Presbytery called the Jamaica Missionary Presbytery. This move helped to co-ordinate and stimulate the work and between 1836 to the 1850s much was accomplished. In 1847, a Union of the United Secession Church and the Relief Church took place. The new body was called the United Presbyterian Church. The impact of this in Jamaica was a resolution to form a Synod with four Presbyteries. On 9th January 1849, the first annual gathering was held at Falmouth. The statistics submitted to the Synod of the united mission showed 17 ordained missionaries, 10 catechists, 4 female teachers, upwards of 4000 members and thirty-five day schools. In the late 1860s the decision was arrived at by the Mission Board in Scotland to make every effort to educate and train a native ministry, leading to the gradual withdrawal of European missionaries. A deputation was sent to Jamaica in 1870-71; they visited every station and came to the conclusion that only a gradual development would allow the mission to reach a point of sustainability. A decision was also taken to close the Montego Bay Academy.
The shipwreck, in 1845, of the Rev. Waddell on Grand Cayman, led to the beginnings of a mission to that country. During his enforced time he became concerned at the spiritual destitution of the people. Rev. Niven in the same year, while proceeding to Scotland, stopped on the island. Upon his return he brought the concerns of the island before the church; it is reported that a Rev. Elmslie, then stationed at Green Island, said, “If no one else will go I will”. Rev. Niven accompanied him to see him settled and they arrived in Grand Cayman 11th September 1846. Rev. Niven was sadly lost at sea on his return journey to Jamaica on October 6 1846. McNeill makes reference to the work of Elmslie in Grand Cayman as follows “to follow Rev. Elmslie in his work is like reading the Acts of the Apostles. In season and out of season he was searching the island for lost sheep” (McNiell, p.79). Elmslie laboured single-handedly on the island until 1857, when he was joined by Rev. William Whitecross whose tenure was at best sporadic—he was plagued by illness and died in 1866. For the better part of a century, the Presbyterian Church maintained its dominance over Christian witness to the island; the Church invested heavily in education and laid the foundation for what now exists as its system of education. Over the years that have passed since Elmslie and Whitecross, other servants have laboured; numbered amongst them are Revds. J. Smith, H.L. MacMillan, T. Redpath, and W. Pouchie, who is the first ordained native minister of Grand Cayman. In addition to their services must be counted the work of laymen such as Messrs. McTaggart, Webster, Panton and Ebanks and others. By 1911 there were eight stations on the Island and a membership of 1024. The mission of Today Among the great contributions that have been made by all the antecedents in both countries has been the contribution to education at all levels and the witness of the church in the social issues of the two societies. In Jamaica and Cayman the church has engaged itself in the primary level of education and in so doing has helped to lay the foundation for the systems that exist today. Similarly the church has engaged itself at the secondary and the tertiary levels of education. Testimony to these efforts are schools such as Knox College, Knox Community College, Oberlin High, Clarendon College, Meadowbrook High, Camperdown High, St. Andrews High School for Girls (in collaboration with the Methodists) In addition to these were two private high schools Iona High (now public) and the College of Preceptors (now defunct). In Cayman, the John Gray and George Hicks Schools were named after ministers of the church as a witness to their efforts. The Church’s commitment to society has not only been through congregational social projects or the individual action of ministers but also through the actions of the laity. Among them were Mr. James Bowery, Island Chemist and the first layman to chair the Congregational Union, a Governor General in Jamaica and a National Hero in the Cayman Islands.
In 1830 the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica decided to send Missionaries to preach the Gospel in Africa; they set out for Calabar in Nigeria in 1845 but did not get beyond the Cayman Islands as their ship was wrecked on the reef there. Rev. Hope Waddell was one of the ministers on board the ill-fated ship and when he discovered that there was no organized church on the islands he appealed to the Presbyterian authorities in Jamaica for ministerial help. It took some time for any action to be taken.
In 1846, the Synod meeting at Goshen in St. Mary decided that someone should go. The Rev. James Elmslie heard of the plight of the Caymanians and at the age of 50 he was sent to the Cayman Islands to establish the Presbyterian Church there. Rev. Elmslie had been at Green Island Church in Jamaica and when no other volunteer was found to set up the Cayman Church he said, "If no one will go, I will go".
Rev. Elmslie traveled all over the island of Grand Cayman on horseback, by boat and on foot planting churches, among which was the Church in Savannah. The Sanctuary was originally built on the land that was donated by Mr. Edward Watler in 1876. It was built by Mr. Edward Chisholm.
This was taken down in 1925 and another built in the same year by Mr. Willie Jackson. On January 11, 1970 saw the last sermon preached in this Sanctuary. This too was taken down and another built in the same year. On May 21, 1970 it was dedicated to The Glory of God. The minister during this time was Rev. Coke who is our Interim Minister today. During the seventies more land was donated by Mesers. Jim Bodden and Rex Crighton, which enabled the erection of the Church Hall during the ministry of The Rev. E.L. King. The Basketball Court was built in memory of Mr & Mrs Lanaman Watler. It was dedicated on the 18th November 1994.
We first started out under the Bodden Town United Charge, sharing the same minister and organist. In those days there was no electricity, we had to use kerosene lamps. We had a pump organ as the only main musical instrument. Our worship service was kept in the evenings. This continued for a while until the decision was made to put the North Side United under Bodden Town and put Savannah under the West Bay Charge. We continued sharing the minister. This time our service was early in the morning and West Bay would be later. This went on until August 1998 when we became our own Charge.
Here is a list of Clergy that have served with us:
Rev. J.L. Martin
Rev. T.D. Redpath
Rev. William Pouchie
Rev. J.S. Blackman
Rev. John Gray
Rev. Raymond Coke [twice]
Rev. Joseph Crawford
Rev. Edmund Kind
Rev. Talmage Ebanks
Rev. Collin Cowan
Rev. Donovan Myers
Rev. Euthman Wray [present Minister]
The logo of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands evolved out of three logos of the antecedent denominations. The elements of the logo represent the symbols that are of significance to the doctrine and beliefs of the respective antecedent denominations.
The Cross - that which unites the antecedent denominations, Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church
The Open Bible - represents the centrality of the Word of the God. This was a significant feature in the logo of the former Congregational church.
The Chalice - represents Christ's death and resurrection; the symbol used by the former Disciples of Christ.
The Burning Bush - 'burnt but not consumed' the perpetual flame of the gospel. A symbol of Presbyterianism.
The Sea - symbolic of a church in two nations, the witness across the Caribbean sea as well as a witness not confined to the boundaries of the shores of the Caribbean.