Historic St Ann's Bay Methodist Church destroyed by fire

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann — Rev Horace Hector stood with tears in his eyes staring at the charred remains of the 179-year-old St Ann's Bay Methodist Church hours after it was destroyed by an early morning fire yesterday in this bustling town on Jamaica's north coast.

The pastor and his congregants were devastated as the building held many precious memories for them and many historic moments for Jamaica.

The church was opened on August 1, 1838, the date recognised as full Emancipation Day in Jamaica. The first building was destroyed by fire and a new structure was built in 1898.

The church, where National Hero Marcus Garvey worshipped during his childhood, was also fitted with a pipe organ that was 110 years old.

Pastor Hector was at a loss for words when the Jamaica Observer tried to get a comment from him. He said when he got to the location early yesterday morning the entire church was already engulfed in flames. He was however grateful that the church office was saved.

Although the building was insured, that did not bring comfort to members who lament that the historic items, such as the organ, cannot be replaced.

“Devastating. It's just hard to believe that this is a reality,” Rev Everald Galbraith, bishop of the Methodist Church in Jamaica, said as he looked at the damage.

“When I heard this morning I couldn't believe it, and now seeing it, it's hard to believe,“ added Rev Galbraith, who served as pastor at the church from 1997 to 2002.

“This is a church that has been here since the first of August 1838, connected with Emancipation, touched many lives, served the community in many great ways… 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 because this church has meant so much to people,” Rev Galbraith added.

He said the church will be rebuilt and the hall, which was not affected by the fire, may be used temporarily for services. However, he was confident that other churches around St Ann's Bay will welcome displaced members to worship with them.

“Anyone of these churches, if the need arises, will make their sanctuary available to the Methodists. I know that for sure because the relationship is very good,” Rev Galbraith said.

He said that despite the devastation, the church is likely to continue its very strong outreach ministry, which includes a breakfast feeding programme for St Ann's Bay Primary School students. This is usually done in the church hall.

Yesterday morning, when the Observer spoke with acting commissioner for Area Two and public relations officer for the Jamaica Fire Brigade Emelio Ebanks, he said the fire department was still trying to ascertain the cause of the blaze.

“We received a call at 2:15 this morning by a passer-by who actually came into the St Ann's Bay station to report that this church was on fire. We responded immediately with three units and when we arrived on the scene the roof was already engulfed,” Ebanks said.

He said it was difficult to put a value to the loss as the building and its contents were completely razed. However, the fire department will work with the church to find out what was lost.

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