| Jamaica, East
Before the end of the nineteenth century, an indigenous holiness church known as the Christian Catholic Church, was established in Jamaica. Through its ministry, a young Jamaican, Miss Ella Ruddock was converted. She later traveled to the United States of America and studied at Taylor University in Indiana. While there, she met with and was inspired by the work of an organization known as the Missionary Bands of the World—a former auxiliary of the Free Methodist Church.
Overwhelmed by a burden for the people in her homeland, she solicited the Band’s leaders to extend their missionary work to Jamaica. Her expectation went unfulfilled as missionaries were not available.
Miss Ruddock returned to Jamaica n 1912 and began a ministry in Friendship, Westmoreland under the auspices of the Missionary Bands. She was joined in 1915 by an American, Miss Susie Schlatter. They pioneered a work which made Jamaica a prominent mission field of the Missionary Bands of the World. In 1949 the work was legally incorporated. By then several other missionaries had come to Jamaica to work; many Jamaicans were converted. The work continued to grow and by 1954, there were sixteen organized and three unorganized churches.
A major milestone was reached in 1958, when the Missionary Bands of the World merged its churches in Indiana and it mission fields in Central India and Jamaica with the Wesleyan Church of America. This marked the inception of the American extraction of the Wesleyan Movement in Jamaica. At the time of the merger, there were thirty-six pastors and workers, ten of whom were ordained. There were twenty-four churches with a total membership of 623. In addition, there were sixty-six Sunday schools with an average attendance of 2,000. By 1968, these figures were surpassed considerably. Through the decades of the fifties and sixties, the Church consolidated its efforts. By 1962, it was able to send missionaries (The Hewling family) abroad (Honduras).
The work of the Pilgrim Holiness Church in Jamaica was pioneered by its first missionary to the island, the Rev. Mr. J.R. Figueroa, and American trained Cuban who arrived in the island in December 1919. The church at the time bore the name The International Holiness Church.
His labors began in a small mission in Kingston and was augmented by a number of American missionaries who arrived in 1924 (and later years) soon after the church (internationally) adopted its new name—the Pilgrim Holiness Church.
Among the missionaries who faithfully served the Church was the Rev. & Mrs. Paul D. Ford (1924-1934) and the Rev. and Mrs. Ray Hankins whose tenure was less than a year (1928) on account of Mrs. Hankins’ ill health. Both couples were instrumental in the establishment of the church and mission home on Mannings Hill Road—the present headquarters of the Eastern District of the Wesleyan Holiness Church.
In 1941, the seat of administration of the Jamaica District, which comprised Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Pines, was transferred from Grand Cayman to Jamaica. A year later, a Bible Training School which was soon to provide centralized facilities for Theological training in the Caribbean was established in Constant Spring, under the direction of the Rev. E.E. Philippe. The school was subsequently relocated in Barbados, a more congenial location, in terns of accessibility since the majority of the churches of the Caribbean field were located in the Eastern Caribbean.
As the movement grew and developed, the Jamaican nationals assumed substantive offices; notably, the Rev. Gersham Gray became the first native pastor. In Montego Bay and its environs, the work of the church pursued with much vigor under the direction of the Rev. A.M. Reynolds. However, the church continued under the superinetendence of American missionaries until 1968. By then, the Pilgrim Holiness Church had taken a recongnized place among the denominations in Jamaica.
A new era began in 1968 with uniting of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of American and the Pilgrim Holiness Church. The new organization became known as the Wesleyan Church (in North America), and The Wesleyan Holiness Church (in the Caribbean). The Rev. Amos King was appointed to the post of National Superintendent of the Church of Jamaica, thus becoming the first Jamaican national to be elevated to the office of Superintendent. His tenure of the office ended in 1972.
Consequent on deliberations and decisions taken at a General Conference in 1973, the Jamaican territory was formed into two autonomous districts. Eastern and Western districts -- each to be administered by a District Superintendent and a Board of Administration. The first appointees to the posts of District Superintendent were the Rev. Gersham Gray (Eastern District) and the Rev. Noel O. Williams (Western District).
In the years that followed, significant changes were brought about. The achievements of the districts were attestation of the dynamic potential and cohesive spirit to be found among the people. The construction of a new church building at the headquarters of the Eastern District serves as one example of their resoluteness and industry in service to God. Most praiseworthy of all is the church’s unflinching stand in its commitment to the spreading of the gospel of Christ to the Glory of God.
In 1980 the Eastern and Western Districts in their respective conferences took the decision to constitute a third district—the Northern District—which would encompass the areas of St. James, Trelawny and St. Ann. The Rev. A.M. Reynolds was appointed Superintendent of this new district. He previously served as assistant superintendent of the Eastern District (1977-1978) The three districts (totaling fifty-three churches) are members of the Caribbean General Conference of the Wesleyan Holiness Church and the Wesleyan Church Worldwide.
After serving the Eastern Jamaica District for seventeen years as district superintendent (1973-1990), Rev. Gersham Gray decided not to seek re-election to that office. In 2000, he retired from the pastorate of the headquarters church at Constant Spring.
In 1991, the Eastern Jamaica District elected Rev. Henry Ewan in 1991 as superintendent. He had served as assistant district superintendent to Rev. Gersham Gray for several years.
The district continued on its path of growth. The number of churches by this time stood at 15.
Rev. Orrett Field was elected the new District Superintendent in January 1998 after Rev. Henry Ewan moved to the Western District. The number of churches on the District now stands at sixteen with a membership in 2003 of 1,233. The geographical area of the Eastern Jamaica District covers the parishes of Kingston, St. Andrew, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary.
On September 11, 2004 Hurricane Ivan seriously damaged manses and churches at four locations namely; Fruitful Vale, Cascade, Mahoe and Content. A number of members also suffered individual damage to their homes and property and are slowly recovering.
The District continues to hold onto its firm heritage and is earnestly pursing the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Northern Jamaica District was formed in 1980 and includes the parishes of Saints James, Trelawny and Saint Ann. Some of the most famous tourist attractions in the island are located in this area, which has the largest concentration of hotels, condominiums in Jamaica. The main economic activities are tourism and bauxite mining.
The District started with four churches in the metropolitan area of Montego Bay; namely Montego Bay, Tucker, Greenpond, and Cornwall. Prior to the formation of this District, the parish of St. James was a part of the Eastern District. As at that time there were only two District – East and West.
A combination of factor was responsible for the formation of the Northern District. The first was a review of the boundaries of the Western and Eastern Districts. Although St. James was zoned as part of the Eastern District, it fell within the geographical bounds of the Western District by virtue of its location in the North – Western section of the Island. In addition, Rev. Reynolds provided the type of leadership which resulted in numerical growth and financial stability which qualified the zone for consideration as a district.
Since the formation of this District, it has grown to 12 churches, built 2 manses and a District Office and have acquired land to construct a third manse.
One of the strategies used to plant churches was the establishing of extension Sunday school. Some of these were started in homes, yards, or under trees and some in Government schools.
Rev. Reynolds was succeeded by Rev. Bernard Scarlett who was instrumental in establishing Barrett Town, Rose Hill, Lillitput and Daniel Town churches, and was also a key figure in achieving the incorporation of the churches in Jamaica.
Miss Ella Ruddock was the daughter of an English planter and his Indian wife. They resided at Friendship in the hills of Strawberry in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Ella later migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA to further her education. There she met was impressed with a holiness group called the Missionary Bands of the World, and invited them to Jamaica. She returned to Jamaica in 1912 (the year the Titanic sunk)
Later in 1915, Miss Susan Schlatter—the first American Missionary—was sent to work with her. They made Friendship their headquarters, and constructed a board building in which they worshiped. The late Rev. John Clarke, like Ella Ruddock, was converted under the ministry of the late Rev. K.S. Tate (an outstanding holiness preacher of the Baptist denomination at Sutcliff Mount). Rev. John Clarke and Ella’s nephew the late Frederick Ruddock joined forces with Miss Roddock, and concentrated their outreach efforts on sugar estate farms such as, Friendship Farms, Blue Castle Farm and Georges Plain Farm.
Brother Frederick Ruddock later moved to the community of Torrington where he purchased a small plot of land and built a house. Adjoining the place was another small lot for sale, which was the property of Mr. Luther Ridguard. Bro. Fredericj Ruddock, a carpenter, encouraged the Missionary Bands to buy the lot, and, he along with a young Luther transported the wooden building from Friendship to Torrington. The late Miss Stella Bare and Miss A.A. Amis, then came and lived in the same house with the Ruddocks while supervising the building of the house in which the missionaries were to live. That building is still standing today (old mission house at Torrington, across the road from CWC Campus).
The late Mr. Samuel Forrester of Strathbogie, an architect and builder constructed the house. A large room was added to the back of the church, which was also used to accommodate them. Although they lived under adverse conditions, they were faithful in their efforts to win the lost.
They majored in fasting and praying with much tears. They visited homes, fed the hungry, cared for the sick and gave the Word. As a result, souls were converted. Among those converts were the late Violet Hyslop, descendant of a white plantation owner, the late Miss Margaret (Mammie) Spence (rev. Clara Beckford’s mother) a household helper, the late Rev. Levi Blake a gardener, the late Rufus Maddan and Indain from Banbury, Miss Beatrice and Miss Elizabeth White from Shrewsbury who were also decedents of a planter. These were trained in the Word and became Sunday school teachers and were known as Bible Women and Men. The men worked closely with Rev. John Clarke visiting and organizing outdoor Sunday school at Petersfield and at Banbury. The two white sisters who lived in the Peterfield area were active in the Sunday school there. Margaret Spence was active at Banbury which s 1 ¾ miles away from Torrington. On Wednesdays she worked with underprivileged women, and on Sunday s she went to the Sunday school at Banbury. Miss Hyslop helped in the church at Torrington. Sis Clara (Rev. C.I.Beckford) and her brother Joseph were privileged to accompany their mother on her assignments.
The Sunday school at Banbury was hled under a breadfruit tree in the yard of the late Mrs. Marion King, who was the mother of the late Rev. Amos King—a convert of Margaret Spence. Rev. Amos King served as Conference President of Jamaica for several years under the structure of the Missionary Bands, prior to the merger with the Pilgrims in 1968. (Rev. King served in that capacity though the Missionary Bands was officially merged with the Wesleyan Church of America in 1958) Subsequent to the 1968 merger (The Wesleyan and The Pilgrims) Rev. King served as district superintendent of the then Jamaica District, and, in 1972, at the division of the island into Eastern and Western, he became district superintendent of the Western Jamaica District. Northern Jamaica which was then a part of the Eastern Jamaica, became a separate district in 1980.
The primitive conditions around let to infections with many tropical disease such as malaria and yaws resulting in illness to the missionaries. Sister Bare became ill and Miss Ella Matthews cam for a short periods. When they returned home Rev. John Clarke was left in charge. In 1928, Rev. & Mrs. L.B. Oniel were sent to administer the work with Rev. John Clarke. The Oniels, who were previously missionaries to India, wasted no time in making acquaintances with prominent Indain leaders like the Cheddisinghs of Georges plain work, Blairs of Ricket River, Matthews and Maddans of Bambury, and often invited them to meals which he would prepare himself while he discussed Indain customs and sang in their tongue. A favorite was ‘Jesus loves me this I know’
Under Rev. Oniel’s administration the work grew rapidly at Petersfield. The late Mrs. Helen Hyslop, a widow, donated the property on which the church now stands, with a cottage house which later served to house the pastors. Sis. Bare, while overseas, collected and sent funds to Rev. Oniel and the first wooden church was built by Rev. John Clarke with the late Fred Ruddock being the only carpenter. It was opened in February 1931 by Rev. Oniel.
Later that year Rev. Oniel returned the USA leaving Rev. John Clarke in charge of the work. Rev. Clarke married a widow the late Mrs. Eva Ruddock and came to live in Torrington.
In 1933, Missionaries Bare and Amis returned to work along with Miss F.G. Denniwitz. Miss Amis later began a work in a community in upper Westmoreland leaving Revs. Bare and Clarke and a handful of workers. Around this same time, Miss Ella Ruddock learnt that, consequent on the death of a farm owner in England, she was the sole heir to the farms and millions of pounds in a bank in Scotland. She became involved in a lawsuit with the caretakers and disqualified from the Missionary Band Work,.
Rev. Levi Blake, a convert earlier mentioned, lived at Solas and did much work in that area resulting in converts like the late Mrs. Elfried Miller and Stanley Hewling. They became a part of the family at Torrington. Some of those already there were: Vera Wilson, Caroline Stevens and Robert Norman. Later the family grew to include the Pennock sisters—Ann and Louise (Rev. Louise King-still alive), Franklyn Davis, Clara Wallace, Aston Richard, Amos King, Egbert Jenkinson, Isabel Jacobs and Ruth Noble. In 1936, Rev. John Clarke was called home while fighting an illness.
During this administration, people were awakened to realize what investment in heaven’s bank meant, and gave lands for building of churches for worship. In 1944, the church at Solace was o lease from Mr. Gasford Tomlinson who needed the lot and gave notice at a time when the church was at its peal spiritually. The Lord spoke to the Forrester sisters who lived at Williamsfield and they donated the spot on which the Solace’s mission house and Basic School now stands. To God be the glory!
Banbury emerged from under a breadfruit tree to the small 30 x20 ft. wooden building on lands leased by the late Mr. Johnny Samuels and built by the late Rev. Frederick Ruddock. Mr. Samuels later died, and his nephew, the late Mr. Wade Samuels, donated the lot on which the building now stands. Missionary M.E. Beirnes was the architect; the district superintendent was the late (rev. Stanley Hewling and Rev. Clara Beckford was the pastor from 1952-1989.
Mr. John Blaire a friend of Rev. Oniel became converted during Missionary Bare’s ministry. Being associated with, or was a leader of, the Hosan Group—which involved him in the yearly feast to their gods – suffered much persecution following his conversion to Christianity. For three months, his house was stoned nightly by unseen forces. Police protection was offered, and some people, including Sis. Bare, saw and heard the stones falling but saw no one. She even got hit by a falling stone. In all of this Bro. Blaire, with fasting and praying in his home and the church, remained steadfast to the end. He donated the spot for the first church at Rickets River.
During those years there was no means of transportation, so the work was carried on by foot, but gradually bicycles were provided, and those who could ride moved around more freely. In 1940, the late Beresford Beckford, whose mother was a member of the Torrington congregation, was converted. He was employed on a nearby farm and had favors with the employer, so he would request a loan of the property’s horse and buggy—a two-wheeled covered vehicle drawn by two or four horses – for the convenience of Miss Bare whether it was for business or church errands. This continued for some years until the Lord provided the first car which was named ‘faith’ and was driven by the late Rev. Franklyn Davis who died in 2002.
In 1940, the late Rev. Stanley Hewling received a vision of Kendal in Hanover, he requested permission from the missionary to go in search.. He went with the late Rev. Franklyn Davis, and was gladly welcomed in that community, received accommodation for workers and a spot to build a booth.
Support was given from the Westmoreland Churches, and Bro. Beresford used his mule and cart to transport brethren from Torrington, Petersfield and Banbury to encourage the workers. In 1949, the property on which the Kendal Church now stands was purchased. Kendal has been a strong family church from which several others churches branched: Ginger Hill, Middlesex, Cauldwell, Green Islands, Lancer’s Bay, Peggy Barry and Orange Bay – all of which have a similar history, Kendal also produced Rev. N.O. Williams.
The Missionary Bands was incorporated into the laws of Jamaica under Law 71 of 1949 through the instrumentality of Rev. Leroy Bulah (an American Missionary). It is reported that after the final transaction with the lawyer, he expressed appreciation for so assisting him with his case, then turning to the lawyer, he asked “and what about your case now’. Thereupon, he witnessed to him.