Burchell Baptist Church founder’s descendant launches scholarship fund
The Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay was the scene of an inaugural scholarship awards ceremony, attended and financed by the great-great-great-grandson of church founder Thomas Burchell, Ray Matteson, as part of its 190th anniversary celebration service on Sunday.
The service, which was also part of the Burchell Baptist Church's Mission Month celebration, saw Matteson presenting two five-year scholarships to high-school students Orane Hibbert and Tishell Bernard, who are also members of the church.
Pastor of the Burchell Baptist Church, Reverend Dr Davewin Thomas, explained that Matteson established the scholarship as a way of rendering assistance to the church's young people, after making the familial connection between himself and the church's founder, during a visit there in 2011.
"Mr Matteson and his family visited Jamaica about three years ago, and they came to the Burchell chapel as part of a guided tour, and he looked around at the plaques and found a wonderful connection with one of its forebears," said Dr Thomas, referencing the link between Matteson and church founder, Burchell.
"Having got that, he (Matteson) wrote to me, seeking ways in which he could get involved in the life of the Burchell church, and he wanted to do something for the young people," Dr Thomas added. "He has been sending some donations consistently for the last year or so ... a portion of which, along with some very generous contributions from his family, is enabling two of our young people to be further educated in life."
In a brief address to the congregation, Matteson described his opportunity to honour the legacy of his ancestor as a blessing.
"It is such a blessing for us to be here with you this morning. I do not think it is any coincidence that it is happening on the anniversary of the 190th year of the church's existence. Since we have made the connection with the church, you have been in our prayers every day, and it's a blessing for us to have this relationship," said Matteson.
"We just wanted to have some way to honour the legacy of my great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Burchell, and I feel blessed and humbled to provide assistance to two children to continue their education," Matteson continued.
Thomas Burchell, who established the Burchell Baptist Church in 1824, was a prominent Baptist missionary who lived from 1799 to 1846, and he was a noted figure in the fight for abolition of slavery in Jamaica, alongside fellow Baptist ministers James Phillippo and Samuel Oughton.