Four Paths Church celebrates 180 years
Horace Fisher, Gleaner Writer
In 1834, three significant events took place in Jamaica: slavery was abolished, The Gleaner Company was established, and the Four Paths Congregational Church (now the Four Paths United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands) opened its doors in Four Paths, Clarendon.
One hundred and eighty years later and 27 ministers, the religious institution, the first London Missionary Society church to be built in Jamaica, has made as its mandate, the continuation of its tradition of spiritual and social altruism in the development of the community and its parishioners' welfare through social interventions and other developmental mediums. This, according to Reverend Anthony Wallace.
"As we celebrate this milestone here today, we will reflect on our past and contemplate our future. We want to continue our tradition of community intervention programmes in Four Paths," Reverend Wallace asserted at last Sunday's 180th observance ceremony at the church.
"Youth empowerment through skills trainings, and the general upliftment of the dispossessed will dominate our continuing interventions in the community ... . It cannot just be spiritual. The mission must involve a social aspect also," he insisted.
His assertion, a feat not uncommon to the 180-year-old church that sits at the crossroad leading to Manchester in the west, Mocho in the north, May Pen to the east and York Town to the south, has been credited with the establishment of the Four Paths Primary School, and has sent numerous missionaries to West Africa.
According to the church's historian, Daendria Powell, the then Four Paths Congregational Church was established by the Reverend W.G. Barrett following the passage of the Emancipation Act of 1834, upon which, the London Missionary Society dispatched a group of missionaries to Jamaica.
The historian says the original wooden structure - porch, a bell tower, sash windows, and jalousies were replaced 100 years later with its current cut stones, concrete, steel and mortar, following its centenary celebration.
Tending to the flock
In a written text, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen praised the church for what he called "tending to the flock" at a time when the majority black population suffered under the apprenticeship system. The governor general noted that after 180 years of service to the parish of Clarendon, the church continues to impact positively on the people's welfare.
"As one of the oldest Congregational Churches in Jamaica, the Four Paths United Church has lived in an important segment of Jamaica's history. In 1834, the church tended to the needs of the flock in a society where the majority black population still suffered under the apprenticeship system," read custos of Clarendon William Shagoury, on behalf of the governor general who was unavoidably absent.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who also praised the church for what she described as its post-slavery service to the newly-freed slaves, said the church's nurturing of the flock is an undeniable and tremendous commitment to duty and the church's contribution to national development.
"From the very outset in 1834, Four Paths United Church was grounded in service - service to the slaves and ex-slaves: a mission that has since grown to embrace outreach ministry, counselling, skill training and other community development initiatives," said the prime minister. Her speech was read by Noel Arscott, minister of local government and community development and the member of Parliament for South West Clarendon.