The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands


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”. Beardslee the Pioneer 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. The Years of Autonomy 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.
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