History of the Church of the Nazarene
History This Week
By Arlene Munro
October 20, 2005
- Part I
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Church of the Nazarene in British Guiana. The Church of the Nazarene in Guyana owes its establishment to some Barbadians, Rev. and Mrs. Cephas Rice, Charles Pickering and family as well as Rev. and Mrs. Leland Rogers who were Nazarene missionaries. Mr. Cephas Rice was a member of the Christian Mission Church. He accepted the challenge to start a Christian Mission congregation in British Guiana. This was accomplished in Pike Street, Kitty, George-town and Wismar, Linden. However, Rice decided to organise his church as an independent one. The Picker-ings who were Barbadian immigrants in his church discovered through a son, Fred Pickering in Trinidad, that there was an international church to which they could become affiliated. Pastor Fred Pickering had met a Nazarene missionary, Rev. Leland Rogers, in Trinidad in 1944. He encouraged Rev. Rogers to travel to British Guiana to discuss with Rev. Rice the possibility of annexing the independent church to the Church of the Nazarene. As a consequence of these discussions Rev. Cephas Rice's church was affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene in 1945. The new church moved into new premises in Regent Street.
The following year Rev. Rogers and his wife travelled from Trinidad to Georgetown and purchased property on Laluni and Irving Streets, Queenstown. A church was constructed there for the Regent Street congregation. The 1950s saw the expansion of the Church of the Nazarene in the colony. A church was started at Herstelling in July 1953 and Malcolm Allicock was appointed pastor. An independent church in Victoria, established by Charles Williams, was affiliated to the Church of the Nazarene in 1953. The church in Wismar was officially organised in October 25, 1953. Its pastor was Clarence Williams. Rev. Donald Ault, who had succeed Rev. Rogers in 1952, asked Frances Mootoo, a former Lutheran Pastor in Berbice to start churches in Berbice for the Church of the Nazarene. Richard Tombran and Mannick Chand became workers in the Berbice Friendship Church. The First Assembly of the British Guiana Church of the Nazarene was held on 11-12 November 1953 at the Queenstown Church of the Nazarene. The church had 157 members and 1,767 persons enrolled in Sunday School.
By 1956 three new churches had been organized at Bloomfield, Uitvlugt and No. 19 Warren Village. Attempts were made to start churches at Plaisance and Grove. In 1957 a church was established in New Amsterdam by a missionary, Rev. David Browning. The pastor of the church was Kenneth Drepaul. The first District Youth Camp was held in 1956 in New Amsterdam. A monthly district newsletter, The Newscaster was published in 1957. In the same year Sunday broadcasts of the 'Showers of Blessing' programme were aired on Radio Demerara. Four students left British Guiana to study at the Nazarene Training College in 1957. However, the first Guyanese student, Bernice Chance, had enrolled at Nazarene Training College in 1951 and was followed by Sydney Hercules and Brother Bear.
In the 1960s there was further expansion of the Church of the Nazarene. The Plaisance Church was officially organized in 1961. Churches were organized in Sisters Village and Soesdyke in 1966 by Pastor Joseph Murugan. Another one was started at Rose Hall by Pastor Richmond Tombran. Pastor Mooniram Basdeo tried to establish a church at No. 35 Macedonia and No. 45 Village, Corentyne. In 1970 Pastor Jerry Tombran began a church at No. 65 village. George Persaud started an outreach at Orealla on the Corentyne River. Rev. Jerry Demetre tried to establish a church at Bush Lot. A church was organized at Kara Kara in 1969.
As the church grew there was a need for ordained elders. Therefore, Pastor Joseph Murugan was ordained by Dr. V.H. Lewis in 1967. In 1969 Pastor Mooniram Basdeo, Isaac Baldeo and Ivan Roberts were ordained by Dr. Edward Lawlor.
In 1970 and 1971 missionaries David Browning and Peter Burkhart left the country. However, missionary Robert Brown remained. He became the first pastor of the South Ruimveldt Church of the Nazarene which was established in 1974.
Prior to this, in 1971, Dr. Edward Lawlor apponted Rev. Joseph Murugan as the first National District Superintendent of the Guyana District of the Church of the Nazarene. It was a new age. Guyana had gained political independence from Britain in 1966. By 1971, the Guyana District had 876 members. There were 5,063 enrollees in the District's Sunday Schools with a Sunday average of 2,647. There were 22 churches, 50 preaching points and 'bottom house' Sunday Schools. There were 16 ministers in the District.
Churches were founded in Robert Bush Hill and Christianburg in 1970 and the Goldhill Church was organized in 1972. In 1974, churches were organized in Henrietta, La Grange, and South Ruimveldt Park. By 1976 new churches had been organised in Vreed-en-hoop, De Willem, Bartica, Brickery and Parika. Another church was established in 1977 at Johanna South. It is noteworthy that during the administration of Rev. Joseph Murugan, the Guyana District assisted in a church planting project in Suriname.
On March 23, 1983, Rev. David Dabydeen succeeded Rev. Joseph Murugan as District Superintendent of the Guyana District. The decade of the 1980s was one of economic decline. Dr. Clive Thomas described the decline of the country in these terms: "…the government sought to enforce a reduction in the real wage in order to overcome the production crisis and its manifestations of declining output, sales and surpluses in the state sector, domestic inflation and foreign exchange and balance of payments crises." Undoubtedly this economic decline affected the church.
Nevertheless, in 1981, a church was organized at Meadowbrook and in 1982, four new churches were established at No. 41 Village, No. 7 Village, Triumph, and Cove and John. With the organization of the four new churches 100 new members were added to the church. However, the churches in Mibikuri and Parika were disorganized in 1982.
In the 1980s there was greater focus on constructing church buildings than on planting new churches. There was a dire need for modern church buildings as many of the churches were in disrepair or had become too small to hold the growing congregations. Therefore Work and Witness teams from the Church of the Nazarene in the United States came to construct several edifices with the assistance of the local members. New churches were constructed in Henrietta, Brickery, Herstelling, Bartica and Industry. Work and Witness Teams came from Indiana and Florida in December 1985, Philadelphia in 1984 and Michigan, Indiana, Florida and Kentucky in 1983.
The Church of the Nazarene organized educational programmes for its pastors and laypersons in the 1980s. In 1982, the Nazarene World Mission Division sent Rev. and Mrs. Jack Armstrong to train church members for the various ministries of the church. Fifty persons enrolled in this training programme. Many of them were pastors. At the time 14 Guyanese were studying at the Caribbean Nazarene Training Collage in Trinidad. On July 12-15, 1985, Dr. Ruth Saxon trained Sunday School teachers and officers and presented a paper on 'Liberation Theology' to pastors in Berbice and Demerara. On January 17-February 6, 1986 Rev. David Street and a team taught several courses to ministers and laymen.
Despite the national financial crisis, the Church invested in evangelism. In 1983 a Work and Witness Team, led by Tom and Muriel Wetzel, conducted rallies in Industry and in Queenstown. Vel and Arlene Sutton and Joan Crow ministered to youths at the Berbice camp. Fletcher and Joyce Tink ministered to the youths at Camp Goshen. Song evangelists, Jimmy Dell and Eon Trotman, ministered to crowds at the annual concert. During April 1984 the District Superintendent, Rev. Robert Dabydeen, and four pastors from the Demerara area conducted one week of simultaneous rallies in five churches on the Corentyne coast.
Revival meetings were held in 31 churches across the district in 1985. On June 10-15-August 1985, Virg Wilcozen taught a course entitled 'Master Plan for Discipleship.' In 1985 the youths in the Nazarene Youth International (NYI) Department held street meetings, marches and rallies. On July 27 - August 15, 1985 Rev. Wayne La Force spoke at youth camps in Berbice and Demerara. Rev. Howard Tripp and Rev. Ed Irwin ministered to the Queenstown Church from November 29 to December 8, 1985. Rev. and Mrs. Richard Frank held two rallies in the churches at South Ruimveldt and Uitvlugt.
In the 1980s there were annual youth camps, pastors and wives' retreats, Sunday School seminars, talent competitions and training seminars and rallies sponsored by the Nazarene World Missions Society (NWMS) and the Nazarene Youth International. There were also annual revival meetings in the churches. Some of the speakers were pastors from the Caribbean and the United States.
By 1986 the Guyana District had elders, 13 licensed ministers, 10 full-time pastors, 5 bi-vocational pastors and 4 supply pastors. Due to missing reports for the years 1987 to 1990 this examination of the growth of the church in the 1980s will be terminated. In my next article I will continue my examination of the history of the Church of the Nazarene in the Guyana District.
The Church of the Nazarene, an international holiness denomination, was established in 1945 in Guyana. In 1990, the Guyana District was reorganized into the Berbice District and the Demerara/Essequibo District. By 1991 the Demerara/Essequibo District had 25 churches, 5 ordained ministers, fourteen licensed ministers, two laymen as supply pastors and 1,423 members. This growth in membership was a consequence of the church's evangelistic programmes. This article will focus on the development of the Demerara/Essequibo District from 1990 to 2005.
The Church of the Nazarene continued to invest in evangelism annually. For example, in 1991, Rev. Keena, Rev. Woodward, Rev. Stainforth and Dr. Frank from the United States as well as local pastors conducted rallies and family life seminars at churches in Industry, South Ruimveldt, Meadowbrook, Herstelling, Uitvlugt, La Grange and Sisters. Consequently 114 members were added to these churches. As part of its evangelistic programme the Sunday School organised children's camps in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
In 1998 the District Evangelistic Board planned an effective evangelism programme. A Mission trip to Linden was undertaken on August 25-30, 1998. The programme included Vacation Bible School in each church, house visitation, tract distribution, personal evangelism, evangelistic services and Jesus Film showings in each church location. Seven persons were baptized and the trip ended with a rally.
During 1998 the Jesus Film Team organized 36 showings of the Jesus Film to a total audience of 5,664 persons, with 518 persons making decisions for Christ. Two schools of evangelism were conducted in July 1998 at the Vreed-en-Hoop and Kara Kara churches. Fifty-one persons were trained. In the 1990s the evangelistic goal was to gain 2000 converts by the year 2000.
In 1989 the Church of the Nazarene had initiated a Renovation Operation Programme. Consequently, in the 1990s the Christianburg Church replaced its roof. The South Ruimveldt Church tried to prepare the lower flat of the manse for social activities. The Uitvlugt and Herstelling churches repainted their sanctuaries. A plot of land was secured for the North Ruimveldt Church of the Nazarene on which a church was built. (The North Ruimveldt Church of the Nazarene had been organized in 1989 by John Woolford and members of the South Ruimveldt Church.) The church in Grove constructed a new building. The Meadowbrook Church bought a new plot of property on which to relocate the church and constructed a new sanctuary and manse.
The Goldhill and Silverhill churches repaired their sanctuaries with the financial assistance of the District Office and the Meadowbrook and Kara Kara Churches in 1995.
The Regional Director offered a grant to effect repairs to the District property at 229 Munipur Street in that same year. In 1996-1997 the District Centre received new concrete steps and a security fence, and new sanitary and water facilities through the efforts of Rev. Smee, Regional Director, and Rev. K. Carney. A new concrete sanctuary was renovated at Robert Bush Hill in the year 1998-1999 with the assistance of the Brickery Church and Rev. Blockeel of Street Children International.
Work and Witness Teams from the church in the USA also made their contribution. In 1997-1998 several teams invested time, money and energy in the Queenstown Church, the District Centre, the Meadowbrook Manse and the North Ruimveldt Church. In November 1998 the teams held medical/ministry clinics at the Soesdyke and Robert Hill churches and conducted evangelistic services.
It is noteworthy that in 1991 a health clinic was conducted by Dr. Janice Woolford at the North Ruimveldt Church. This was the first of many health clinics which would be held for the benefit of the church and the community. In that year also the Nazarene Youth International (NYI) at the North Ruimveldt Church organized a Drug Education Seminar. Since the 1980s, the church has sponsored an annual 'Race against Drugs.'
In the 1990s the Church of the Nazarene continued to make education a priority. The Pastors' Extension Programme was restarted in 1991 to prepare ministers to serve and to be better qualified for ordination. In 1992 the Chairman of the Sunday School Board, Waveney Pereira, and seven Sunday School officers attended seminars at the Caribbean Nazarene Theological College in Trinidad. Consequently, Sunday School seminars were held in Henrietta, Bartica and Linden by Waveney Pereira and Rev. and Mrs. H. Dundas. Ruth Saxon, a lecturer from the College, also conducted Sunday School seminars in Guyana in the 1990s. Dr Beals and Mr Eby held a seminar to present a new Global English series of materials for the Sunday School in 1992. In addition to annual local seminars, some teachers were also trained at the Wesleyan Bible College and the Guyana Bible College in the 1990s.
The Nazarene World Missions Division (NWMS) and the NYI Departments also conducted workshops and training seminars for its officers in the 1990s. The first 'Men's
Seminar' was conducted by the NWMS Department in 1996-1997. Two seminars on Church Evangelism Thrust and Ministry Options were held in 1996-1997. The Seminar on Ministry Options had as its resource personnel Rev. Mark Lawrence of CNTC, Rev. Claudette Stephens, Rickford Archer and William Woolford. The third Women's Retreat was directed by Mrs. H. Dundas in the year 1998-1999. The first was organized in 1997.
In order to fulfil the need for elders in 1992, Pastor Alphonso Porter and Pastor Rudolph Prescod were ordained by the Church of the Nazarene. Pastor Walter Woolford and Pastor Barbara Prescod were ordained in 1995 and 1999 respectively. In 1995, Rev. Robert Dabydeen, the District Superintendent, informed the District Assembly that he did not want to be considered for election. Consequently, Rev. Leon Dundas was elected District Superintendent for two years. Rev. Dabydeen stated that during his twelve years in office, nine new churches had been built. The District facilities were also renovated.
The NYI continued to organize annual youth camps. In 1995 CARYCAC (Caribbean Youth Camp and Congress) was hosted by Guyana at the Cyril Potter College of Education on August 3-13, 1995. It was attended by the youths of the Caribbean. It was a youth congress that was held in different Caribbean countries. In 1998, youths from the Demerara-Essequibo District attended CARYCAC in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Nazarene Youth Congress '99 in Toronto, Canada. The Sunday School, NYI and NWMS Departments planned annual talent and quiz competitions during the 1990s. CREAFEST, a talent exposition, was jointly sponsored by the NYI and the Sunday School in 1999 and continues to be an annual feature.
In 1995-1996 the NYI conducted Work and Witness Programmes in areas outside of Georgetown and a Youth in Mission Programme offering training in selected areas. Each year the NYI organized a Mission Day where a community project, such as the painting of a church or a senior citizens' home was attempted.
The NWMS Department was involved in compassionate ministries and Links projects. It distributed love baskets, hot meals and clothing and participated in health care programmes and counselling. Visits were made to the elderly and the handicapped. It also promoted the reading of mission books.
As the Church of the Nazarene matured, it began to enter new areas of evangelism. A television programme, The Nazarene Digest, was launched on February 1, 1997. It was sponsored by the North Ruimveldt Church of the Nazarene and Pastor Dexter Daly was the moderator. The youths of the South Ruimveldt Church published In Gear during the year 1996-1997, while the Meadowbrook Church began to publish Lighthouse.
To fulfil the need for decentralized education, Rev. Dr. C. Sarmeinto successfully organized the Decentralized Theological Studies (DTS) programme for the Caribbean in the year 1998-1999. Pastors and laymen were involved in this programme which was held at the Nazarene District Centre. Six classes were planned by the District Board of Ministerial Studies in collaboration with CNTC. Local lecturers were also utilized. These DTS programmes have been offered annually to lay ministers who are pursuing the Certificate of Church Ministries or the Diploma in Ministerial Studies. During the year 2003-2004, a team from CNTC came to promote the college and to challenge the youths to respond to God's call to ministry. This team also visited the Berbice District.
By 1999 the church of the Nazarene had a total membership of 1,513 members and had received a net gain of 33 persons. In the year 2000 the Church of the Nazarene continued to grow. The District Superintendent, Rev. Leon Dundas, officially organized the church at Hillfoot with 16 members on Sunday, March 19, 2000. Its pastor was Eustace Bess.
In the new millennium, more churches were renovated. The Robert Bush Hill was completed and dedicated on October 27, 2002. Repairs were also effected on the Bartica Church, Uitvlugt Church, La Grange Church, Hillfoot Church, De Willem Church, North Ruimveldt Church, Sisters Church and Mocha Church in 2002. In the year 2003-2004 the Herstelling Church and Mocha Church were extended. The South Ruimveldt Church completed its Family Life Centre. The Bartica Church, Plaisance, Mackenzie, and Christianburg churches were also upgraded. The office of the District Superintendent was "completely refurbished" by a team from the Point Fortin Church of the Nazarene.
During the past five years the NYI has continued to organize various programmes for the youths. Mission projects were executed by the youths at the Meadowbrook Church, the Georgetown Hospital, Hillfoot Church and Victoria Church. At the annual youth camps CNTC students have served as counsellors. Rev. Victor George and Rev. Sherwin Ramey from Trinidad and Rev. Errol Vieira from New York have served as Camp Speakers. Sport programmes, rallies and training seminars have also been conducted.
Between 2000 and 2005, the Nazarene Missions International (NMI) planned workshops for its council members, held zone rallies in each zone, distributed food hampers, and ministered to the elderly and the homeless. On January 15, 2001 a community service project was held at the Palms. It was sponsored by the East Bank Zone. The inmates were presented with clothing and other necessities. In the year 2002-2003 mission trips were made to the Linden and West Demerara Zones by council members. Hospitals and nursing homes were visited. The All Age Festivals were held at both zone and district levels.
In the new millennium, the District Sunday School has continued to sponsor annual zone rallies for children. It conducted three Children's camps in 2002, 2003 and 2004. It sponsored Sunday School seminars in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Scripture memorization competitions were held in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
The Nazarene Sunday School Women's Ministry was launched on January 19, 2002 under the leadership of Rev. Barbara Prescod. Since its inception the Ministry has held annual Women's Retreats in February and Women's Conferences in August. The Women's Ministry also hosted 'Tea and the Culinary Art' on January 17, 2004 for families.
In the twenty-first century the Church of the Nazarene in the Demerara/Essequibo District has been drafting leave procedures for its ministers. Another goal is to provide a healthcare plan and pension scheme for its pastors. In addition, the church has established the Goshen Multipurpose Co-operative Society through its Compassionate Ministry arm.
As the church celebrates its sixtieth anniversary in 25 churches with 33 ministers and 1,582 members, it is optimistic about the future. The District Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, Rev. Alphonso Porter, has designated this year, "The Year of Purposeful Church Growth." He states: "For our Sixtieth Anniversary, we could aim to receive two hundred (200) new Nazarenes into our membership, plant two (2) new churches, ordain six (6) ministers." With God's assistance the Church of the Nazarene will achieve these goals.