Devastating! - Historic St Ann's Bay Methodist Church gutted by fire
Established on Emancipation Day, August 1, 1838 and later to become the childhood church of National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the St Ann's Bay Methodist Church was gutted by fire early yesterday morning, leaving losses valued at millions of dollars.
The historic 110-year-old pipe organ, along with everything in the church building, was destroyed in the fire. Only the office and the church hall were spared.
Although the building and contents were insured, it was heart-rending for members of the church who remained at the scene, choked with emotion and tears, several hours after three fire units had done their job and returned to base, a few hundred metres from the church which is located along Bravo Street.
Head of the Methodist Church in Jamaica, Bishop Everald Galbraith, who surveyed the damage, was crushed.
HARD TO BELIEVE
"It's devastating, it's just hard to believe that this is a reality," Galbraith told reporters at the scene. "When I heard this morning, I couldn't believe it, and now seeing it, it's hard to believe. This is a church that has been here since the first of August 1838, many, many years, connected with Emancipation, seen many lives touched and served this community in great ways, so it's very, very painful."
Galbraith, who served at the church from 1997 to 2002, continued: "It's a loss which is not only physical in terms of the building but it's also a loss in terms of the people's sense of who they are. This church has meant so much to so many people; children who have grown up and known this place. So it's a loss in the sense that part of them is gone because this has been part of their lives for so many years."
He added, "This was Marcus Garvey's church as a child growing up, so it has that connection as well, which is very precious to us. We hold that very close to our hearts because Marcus Garvey means so much to us as black people and as Jamaicans."
The bishop said although an estimate of the damage is yet to be completed, he expects it to run into millions of dollars.
The pain was evident in the eyes of the Rev Horace Hector, minister at the church, as he willed himself to speak to reporters.
Hector said he woke up and heard crackling sounds, and upon seeing the fire, he called persons who were nearer to the building and it was confirmed that the church was ablaze.
"I called a brother and he brought me down, but there's nothing anyone could have done," he explained.
It was the second time the church was being destroyed by fire. The first time was 60 years after it was built. Now, 120 years after that tragedy, a similar disaster has struck once again.
Emeleo Ebanks, public relations officer at Jamaica Fire Brigade and acting assistant commissioner for Area Two, which covers the parishes of Portland, St Mary, St Ann and Trelawny, said a passer-by reported the fire at 2:15 a.m.
Three fire units were immediately dispatched, but when they got there, the roof was already engulfed in flames. They worked to prevent the fire spreading.
"It is pretty grim, to be honest," Ebanks said of the damage.
He said the team was working to ascertain the cause of the fire and the full cost of the damage.