This year, Kingston Methodist Church is commemorating the One Hundred and Eighty First Anniversary of its establishment. To mark the occasion The Guyana Review has agreed to publish two separate accounts of the history of the Church, the first by the renowned Guyanese writer A.J. Seymour in 1981 to mark the Church’s 150th Anniversary and the second by Sister Patricia Whitney in 2006 during a Service to commemorate the Church’s One Hundred and Seventy Fifth Anniversary…
Both contributors are now deceased
The Kingston Methodist Church had its genesis in the month of May 1831, the same year that the colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice were united in the colonial territory known as British Guiana. The worshippers at that time were referred to as the Kingston Wesley group.
The first Chapel was erected in the next year, 1832. The wooden structure was built on Lot 70 Kingston, purchased from Mr. C. Clements. Upon completion, the building was dedicated for worship on Wednesday, 18 July, 1832 and became known as the Kingston Methodist Church – a Society which formed part of the Trinity Circuit. The British Methodist Society in London appointed the Ministers, and the first appointee to Kingston was Rev. Moses Rayner.
In 1897 the chapel was enlarged, and in 1874 the organ loft was added. In 1870 the church became an independent society. At that time the membership was recorded at 789, and by the year 1898 the number had grown to 840. The membership was then organized in forty-one (41) classes.
At the turn of the century, Kingston Methodist Church, the only religions presence in the Kingston Ward, was actively witnessing to humbler people who lived or worked with the elite in the community. The activities included Sunday worship services (morning and evening), Bible class – Mondays – Prayer Meetings, Tuesdays – Class Meetings, Thursday – Wesley Guild, Fridays – Choir practices. The organizations supporting the work of the church at that time were the Sunday School, Young Men’s Fellowships Royal Club, Young Adventures and Girls League. These groups were very instrumental in moulding the lives of many of the members who later became respected individuals in the community.
Between 1917 and 1919, the attendance at worship services was affected, mainly due to the economic hardship which World War I brought in 1918. However, the year 1920 saw a religious revival, when cottage meetings were held, and members engaged in the distribution of ‘tracts’ in an outreach effort. The church was again developing, and the momentum was sustained well into the 1930s. The Sunday School, Men’s Fellowship and Church Choir were continuing to function.
The period 1940 to 1950 was one in which persons in the Kingston community began moving out to reside in other areas in Georgetown. This change adversely affected the attendance by members. Despite the drift which continued into the 1950s, the church sustained its witness. The church choir shared fully in the life of the church, under the direction of the late Winfred McDavid, the organist at that time. Cantatas were presented, and the choir successfully participated in National Music Festivals on two (2) occasions. In 1954, the first Deaconess, Sis. Olga Brooks Smith arrived in Guyana to work among women and girls, and Kingston Methodist Church benefited as the Girls League and Women’s League developed. Among the youth groups formed between 1954 and 1958 were the Kingston Girls Guides and Boys Scouts. These groups functioned well into the 1960s.
On Saturday, November 18, 1959 the roof of the church building collapsed. As a consequence services were held in the Kingston Methodist School. The cornerstone of the new chapel was laid on August 20, 1960. The construction of the concrete building was done by the late George Hackett, contractor. The new chapel was dedicated on September 9, 1961 and the Hammond organ presented by Sis. Muriel Wight was also commissioned. Morning and evening worship services continued until 1968 when only morning worship obtained, mainly because of difficulties experienced by persons attending night services.
As time elapsed, more families began to migrate. From here onward, the lean years in the history of Kingston Methodist Church began. In 1970 there were 320 members on roll, and they were organized into 14 classes. The congregation of steadfast and committee members worshipped on Sundays. Class meetings were held weekly and Leaders Meetings were conducted monthly, fostering fellowship within the church family.
The years 1971 to 1980 saw efforts to revitalize the organizations which had waned. The Sunday School, the Youth Fellowship, the Women’s League and Choir were energized. Outreach activities were pursued in the form of holding open air meetings and revival services in the church and neighbourhood.
In 1981 the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the church was observed. A thanksgiving service was held on May 10 and an anniversary gift day on July 19. Rev. Philip Robinson was the Minister and a summary history of the congregation was written by the later Arthur J. Seymour, A.A., distinguished poet, Lay Preacher and prominent member, to mark that remarkable achievement.
Many initiatives were pursued from 1986 onward aimed at church growth. Renewal and Stewardship programmes were emphasized. A Methodist Children’s Fellowship – an extension of the Sunday School was formed in May 1987 and remained active until 1995.
The Feeding Progrmme was launched in 1998 spearheaded by Rev. Anil Prakash, the Minister at that time, and was administered by a volunteer committee of three persons namely Sisters Merna Kanhai, Margery Rohee and Joyce Ramsey. We are pleased to report that this programme is ongoing. In addition, there is also a Reading Programme to assist slow readers from the Church and community.
Despite several attempts to encourage youth activities, the youth fellowship no longer meets.
Due to death, the growing number of shut-ins and the frequency with which members continued to migrate, the membership recorded between 2005 and 2006 is one hundred and one (101).
During the past five years, the church has embarked on various visitation programmes targeting the Kingston area, inviting and encouraging lapsed members and others to share in fellowship at the Kingston Methodist Church. This has yielded a small measure of success.
The advent of Pastoral and Congregational Councils and the formation of Standing Committees have impacted somewhat marginally upon the development and growth of the congregation.
Emphasis is being placed on the spirituality of members through Bible study and prayer meetings. We encourage members to avail themselves to receive spiritual food for spiritual growth.
To complete this historical account, tributes must be paid to all the Ministers who served at Kingston with dedication, loyalty and love. Fifty-eight (58) ministers were appointed since the church’s inception.
Mention must be made of persons who held positions such as sextons, organists, stewards, class leaders, lay preachers, church school superintendents, teachers, as well as those who are presently carrying similar responsibilities.
Expressions of gratitude must are also be paid to members who over the years have contributed to the enhancement of worship and those who have been generous and faithful givers to the church.
Lastly, What is the vision for Kingston Methodist Church? To Grow Now! – To focus on extending its witness, despite the challenges, and striving to impact positively on the lives of the members, community and nation as a whole.
In this the 21st century, sisters and brothers, we are called to “Grow Now!” in an effort to spread Scriptural Holiness. Let us allow the spirit of God to change us, so that, the beauty of Jesus can be seen in us, and through our lives and witness, others may be drawn to Christ.