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Elmslie Memorial United Church’s 100th Anniversary

Local News 02 Nov, 2022 Follow News

Reverends and newly unveiled plaque commemorating 100 years elmslie 30 oct 2022

Unveiling the plaque elmslie 100 anniversary celebrations 30 October 2022

Miss alvernie cutting the cake elmslie anniversary celebrations 100 year

Last weekend saw the culmination of several months of celebrating the Elmslie Church building which has reached its 100th birthday. On the Saturday night, 29th of October, a banquet was held at the Lions’ Centre, with a concluding service in the sanctuary the following afternoon.

The iconic building on the George Town waterfront was actually the fourth church built on the site, the previous three having been destroyed by successive storms. In 1920, the members of that time determined to build a sanctuary that would withstand a hurricane, and they chose a well-known shipwright Capt. Rayal Bodden to build it, although he had never built a building. The architect in Jamaica made the comment, “Anyone who can build a ship can build a church, but not everyone who can build a church can build a ship.” They also decided it had to be built of concrete blocks. As there were no brick structures in Cayman, Capt. Rayal was sent to Jamaica to learn how to make the blocks.

Finances were very short so the minister of the day, Rev. R.N. Dixon travelled to the USA to raise funds from the Caymanian diaspora there.

The foundation stones were laid on 1st July 1920 with completion two years later, the formal dedication taking place on Tuesday, 5th December 1922.

It was decided to name the church after Rev. James Elmslie who had pioneered the work of Presbyterianism on the island. A Scottish missionary serving at the time in Jamaica, he volunteered to come when it was discovered that there was no church on the island, arriving in 1846. Despite considerable challenges - from mosquitoes, ill health, storms and, initially, strongly opposed by the authorities - he lasted 17 years by which time he had established congregations in each of the six districts, with an estimated half of the island’s population attending church. The Presbyterian Church, now the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, is the longest serving denomination in the islands. 

The Sunday anniversary service, which was led by Elmslie’s minister, Rev. Chris Mason, was attended by several dignitaries, including His Excellency, the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper, and the Premier, Hon. Wayne Panton, who both brought greetings, as well as the Moderator of the United Church, Rt. Rev. Gary Harriott, and the church’s General Secretary, Rev. Norbert Stephens, who both came from Jamaica for the occasion.  The Moderator delivered the sermon, reminding the congregation that the church’s true foundation is Jesus Christ.

The service was preceded by the dedication of a plaque marking the occasion, with a time capsule being placed in the plinth.

The chairman of the 100th Anniversary committee, Terri Merren, commented that the preparation and activities involved a lot of time and hard work.  She added, “Without the tremendous support from all of the committee members who worked together as a team, these events would not have been possible. There often did not seem to be enough time in the day, but God said not to worry.  He is good, and He made it possible to complete everything on time.  At the end, we wanted to ensure that it was He who received the glory.”

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