Wed | Dec 13, 2017

The Mennonites in Jamaica - Part 11

Published:Saturday | September 2, 2017 | 12:03 AMPaul H. Williams

Menno Simons, who lived from 1496 to 1561 in Friesland, in The Netherlands, was a Catholic priest who did not agree with some of the teachings of Catholicism, especially the baptism of babies, who did not understand what was happening to them.

He is widely regarded as the founder of the original Mennonite Church in The Netherland in the mid-1540s. Two of the major beliefs of the church are anabaptism (the baptism of adults were already baptised, as babies) and pacifism (non-violent approach to the solution of the world's problems).

Since the early beginnings, the Mennonite movement has evolved into five denominations: the Mennonite Brethren Church USA, the Mennonite Brethren Church Canadian Conference, the Mennonite World Conference, the Mennonite Church Canada and the Mennonite Church USA.

Approximately 400 years after the movement germinated in Europe the seeds for the Jamaica Mennonite Church were sowed, when the Virginia Board of Missions, an arm of the Virginia Mennonite Conference, in 1954, was advised to set up and oversee the church in Jamaica.

The research has revealed that the Virginia Board appointed the Metzler family as the first missionaries to lead the movement here, but it also said the church in Jamaica "started as a result of the efforts of two Canadian missionaries, Brother and Sister Loewen and ... local founding member, Simeon Walters". The first services were held at 2B Whitehall Terrace in Kingston 8, St Andrew.

Ground was broken for the first Mennonite Church building in Jamaica in January 1957. It was called the Good Tidings Mennonite Church, located at 5 White Hall Avenue in Kingston 8. It was dedicated on April 14, 1957.

The 1960s saw a proliferation of Mennonite churches all over the island.The one at Temple Hall in St Andrew was built on the side of the river away from the mainroad.That was a problem, so in April 1967 ground was broken on the highway side of the river for the construction of a new church.

Co-founder Simeon Walters held Sunday School in Red Hills, St Andrew for several years, while members from Good Tidings held open-air meetings twice per week. The Red Hills pocket eventually raised enough money, bought land at Sterling Castle and built the Alpine Mennonite Church, dedicated in February 1962.

The Calvary church in Retreat, St Mary grew out of open-air meetings also initiated by a group from Good Tidings in St Andrew in 1957, and by November 1961 a building was dedicated. Other churches established in the 1960s were Abrams Mennonite Church (1966), and Joyland Mennonite Church (dedicated February 1967) in Good Hope, St Elizabeth.

Growth continued over the years with the Ocho Rios Mennonite Church (dedicated March 1975), Waterloo Mennonite Church (started November 1971 at 28 Upper Waterloo Road, St Andrew), Salters Hill Mennonite Church in St James, Faith Mennonite at Spanish Town in St Catherine, Ridge Mennonite Church in Top Hill, St Elizabeth, and the Unity in Christ Mennonite Church in Old Harbour St Catherine.

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