The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES IN JAMAICA.

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 Sunberry, 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.
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