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Posted on 05/15/2020 in Religion

Churches in Jamaica

Churches in Jamaica

Churches in Jamaica

Jamaica is known as the country with the most churches per square mile. This has been so since as far back as I can remember. We are said to be a Christian country concerning the above statement. This may be so, based on how we in Jamaica embrace religion and who it represents; Jesus. Our spiritual ancestry started in 1507 when the Spanish, as they were the first settlers to our shores, they introduced Roman Catholicism to the island as a means to control and also to Christianize the people.

Other Religious Groups Introduced

Over the centuries, Jamaica has had an influx of many denominations to its shores. The Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Moravians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists, and they are considered traditional churches. Others are found as smaller denominations over the years which have broken away from the traditional organizations and formed their own. 

Because the Roman Catholicism was the religious body initially, they were the main source of spiritual guidance for the slave population, and they also sanctioned slavery in its many forms. Deemed a part of control based on how the British saw slavery to be perpetrated. 

British Missionary William Knibb, from the Baptist Church’s organization, came to Jamaica in 1824 and championed the cause for the abolition of slavery. This was done based on his campaign sighting the treatment of the slaves; against God. His use of his Christian beliefs and humane conscience enabled him to be very effective in this cause. Thus the Baptist Church became another group to become part of the religious fabric in Jamaica.

The Methodist Ministry in Jamaica

Methodism and the Methodist religion came to Jamaica in the man of Thomas Coke. He arrived here in 1789 in Port Royal. Coke was widely received by the then master Caulker, Mr. Fishley. He was by profession a “caulker” who means; his trade was, professionally sealing the joints of ships to make them seaworthy, especially in the 1789 and beyond era. His profession made him a very influential man at the time. Mr. Fishley received Thomas Coke as he was the one who the letter of introduction was addressed to the Island. 

Coke had a tumultuous time of starting his ministry. Initially, he preached his first sermon at the home of a Mr. Treble in Kingston. Because the congregation was a large gathering; he was given the use of a large concert room by a Roman Catholic gentleman Mr. Burn. Coke preached to a congregation of over 600 persons; a mix of blacks and whites. He was disrupted during the service by a group of drunken white usurpers, chanting “Down with him, down with him!” He was in such danger as almost physically hurt. 

Coke was defended by two persons that had befriended him, Mr. Bull and Ms. Mary Ann Able Smith. Mr. Bull defended him by physically placing himself between Coke and his attackers; while, Ms, Smith, being the very personable lady of the time drew a pair of scissors and declared; “you may now do as you please, but the first man who lays a violent hand upon him shall have these scissors thrust into his heart." The disrupters went away with their tails between their legs, to say the least. Within six months to a year, Coke and his many supporters, as well as Missionaries that had arrived on the island, settled at a house in Hannah Town. This became the residence of the Methodist Church meetings and residence of the clergy members. They relocated to a more suitable location in Kingston at a planter’s house they bought in 1790. It was called Parade Chapel. In 1841 it was replaced by what we now know as Coke Methodist Church in Kingston.

The Moravian Ministry in Jamaica

The Moravian Ministry is another Religious Organization, which started during the time of slavery. They were formally The United Brethren’s Church and came here to Christianize the Negros. They landed in Jamaica in December of 1754 as Missionaries from England, Misters Zecharias Caries, Thomas Shallcross, and Gotlieb Haberecht. They chose to go to the rural parts of the island after landing in St. Elizabeth. They were invited to Jamaica by Foster and Barham that were plantations owners. Their first work started on the Bogue estate.

The ministry of these three missionaries was very successful for some time until the death of Mr. Gotlieb Haberecht in 1755. In December of 1756, Mr. Christian Rauche and Mr. Schultz replaced him. They came to the island from America, where Mr. Rauche spent fifteen years among the Native Americans working. The concern was after these two men joined the Moravian organization was the principles for the baptism of the Negros. This was formally set as an original principle before the death of Gotlieb. Nevertheless, because of the dispute amongst the newcomers and the original missionaries in this regard, there was a falling out of the numbers of converts and baptized community.

This situation changed on the arrival of Br Schlegel in 1764. Through his ministry, the attendance flourished. It continued throughout until 1770. In 1908, during the Apprenticeship period and beyond attendance became more as the Negros started trusting and believing for change. Over the years the Moravian Church established schools, agriculture and public works, and free villages. Their reach of modernization and improvement of the lives of the citizens in Jamaica over the centuries have seen more churches being planted, more schools opened and general support for Negros being integrated into society as a whole.

The Jehovah Witness in Jamaica

The presence of the Jehovah's Witnesses’ in Jamaica came about in 1897. They arrived as spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom. Two Jamaicans who migrated to Costa Rica heard the good news and decided to come back to Jamaica and enlighten the population. HP Clarke and Louis Facey were the persons, and on arriving in St James they began their crusade. After two years about 300 converts attended a convention and the Memorial celebration of the Death of Jesus Christ. 

The converts were later placed into groups to go out and witness. Over the centuries, the Jehovah's Witness was strengthened by many overseas representatives. They purposed to convert many persons, even the Government of Jamaica of the time. Along the way, the use of the Watch Tower tracts was the organizations' main tool for spreading the message, and the Jamaican government during World War 11 banned the use and importation of Watch Tower printed materials to the island. Because Jamaica was still a British Colony during the war this made it possible, as the British Government had banned them as well. In 1941 the ban continued, however, the organization was not restricted from doing missionary work. They achieved this by using the Bible since the Watch Tower materials were not available. 

To circumvent the ban, the organization copied and sent via post the Watch Tower tracts unmarked and so they were still able to utilize this medium of ministry secretly. They even were able to get copies of their Course in Theocratic Ministry volumes so they could continue seminary classes in homes throughout the congregations.

Throughout the years there were many opposition and triumphs until stability and a strong foundation was established. They built many Kingdom Halls across the island and are today a part of Jamaica’s Spiritual fabric. Over 30,000 Witnesses are here on the island.

 The Seventh Day Adventists in Jamaica

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was introduced in Jamaica in 1890. The organization came about when someone from Antigua sent a book to a correspondent Mr. James Palmer in Kingston, Jamaica. The book entitled The Coming King so intrigued Mr. Palmer that he sent for more literature from Battle Creek Michigan. On receiving the books at the location 1 Laws Street, Kingston a study group was founded. 

After a time the group grew and with help from members of the headquarters Church, the first Seventh-day Adventist Church with 37 members was formed. This happened in 1894 at South Race Course, Kingston. The rapid growth of the organization had some other entities affiliated with the church to be renamed. They were originally called The West Indian Union Conference. This comprised of churched connected in Jamaica and other islands. In Jamaica Kingston, St. Catherine, Portland, St. Mary, and St. Andrew were so named East Jamaica Conference. West Jamaica Conference comprised of Manchester, St. Ann, St. James, Clarendon, Hanover, Westmoreland, and Trelawney. These organizations were founded during 1903-1959. 

The third Adventist Conference churches were planted in Clarendon, Manchester, Western St. Mary, St. Ann and St. Catherine. The overall organization blossomed under the leadership of Pastor Hiram Walters. He serves the organization for over 40 years, and he died on the said anniversary. Over the years the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew to over 82,000 members; 182 churches, 49 pastoral districts, 181 staff members and 35 companies in Jamaica.

They believe the doctrines of God as the only source, Man, Salvation, the church, the Christian life, and last day events; all in this chronological order. These are the six tenets of their faith.

Other Generic Religious churches in Jamaica

Apart from the above spoken of churches, there are several other secondary groups which have a considerably impactful impression on spiritual worship and beliefs in Jamaica. 

They are:

  • Pentecostal

  • New Testament Church of God

  • Church of God in Jamaica

  • Anglican

  • Quakers

  • United Church of Christ

  • Ethiopian Orthodox Church

  • Rastafarianism

  • Non- Religious

  • Non-Denominational

  • Mormonism

  • Buddhism

  • Hinduism

  • Revival Zion

  • Obeah

Because the religious fabric of Jamaica is so diverse, persons have found it tolerable, to say the least. They integrate many of the different beliefs into forming other religious bodies depending on how they interpret the Bible. In my humble opinion; there is only one God, Jesus is His Son, and we are all striving to understand and serve Him. The only problem is we have failed to remember he is FIRST and FOREMOST Jew. This is where we must start to understand fully the God we all claim to love and worship.








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