United Church celebrates 170 years

Congregations hold a week of celebrations

UCCI president Roy Bodden gave a lecture on the history of the Presbyterian Church.

The Cayman Islands Regional Mission Council of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands recently celebrated its 170th anniversary in the Cayman Islands.

Congregations of the United Church, the former Presbyterian Church of Grand Cayman, hosted several events to celebrate the history of the Presbyterian Church and its contributions to the Cayman Islands in education, government and ministry, a press release from the church said.

‘Journey Through 170 Years’

On Sept. 4, the first day of the week’s celebrations, John Gray Memorial United Church in West Bay hosted “A Journey Through 170 Years,” showcasing the history of Cayman and the life of the people, particularly women. The women of the church performed a dramatization of the poem, “Women of Brick” by Betty Ebanks, showing the struggle of the Caymanian women and ways this struggle has not changed.

The history of the Presbyterian Church in Cayman was shared through a re-enactment of the Rev. James Elmslie, performed by Bryan Bothwell, sharing his testimony of the trials the reverend faced in establishing the church in Grand Cayman. Members of the congregation also shared the accomplishments of the church in helping to establish the education and legislative systems in Cayman.

Betty Ebanks in a dramatization of the poem 'Women of Brick'
Betty Ebanks in a dramatization of the poem ‘Women of Brick’

‘History of United Church’

On Sept. 6, the Gun Bay and East End Charge presented “A Dramatic History of the United Church.” The comedy play focused on the union of the United Church by its three antecedents, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Disciples of Christ.

The East End and Gun Bay congregations had various Caymanian artifacts on display, and ended the evening with a buffet of old-time food and desserts.

The following day, the George Town Charge, consisting of Elmslie Memorial United Church and South Sound United Church, hosted a potluck social.

“The evening was a wonderful time to reflect on the growth of Elmslie Memorial and South Sound United, as well as cherish memories from the past. Fond memories were shared through a slideshow of pictures and by members sharing funny stories and jokes about the Elmslie Church bell and the eccentric minister, Rev. George Hicks,” notes the release.

“A tribute to Cayman’s heritage was done by Elmslie’s dance ministry as they performed the quadrille. The most anticipated moment of the evening was getting to taste the vast spread of food, which was thoroughly enjoyed by those who attended.”

History of religion lecture

On Sept. 8, the Webster Memorial United Church and William Pouchie United Church hosted a lecture and discussion by University College of the Cayman Islands President and historian Roy Bodden, who talked about the history of religion in the Cayman Islands and the Presbyterians’ contribution to education, culture and tradition here.

Mr. Bodden challenged the United Church to find a way of “regaining the formula or strategy used in past to bring them to this point of 170 strong years as their strength to move forward in time where Churches in general are struggling to be present in the community,” the release stated.

On Sept. 9, the “Youth Explosion” was hosted at the Savannah United Church and the Robert Young Memorial United Church.

Youth groups from all the congregations attended. The Savannah United Church Dance Ministry performed, and testimonies were shared by youths about their summer and the impact God had on them throughout the season, according to the release.

The celebration ended on Sept. 11, with reflections on the establishment of the Presbyterian Church by Rev. James Elmslie on Sept. 11, 1846.

The church’s press release noted that “the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has a rich legacy of ministry and mission in Cayman Islands, which includes the nine congregations, Cayman Prep and High School, and the Bethesda Counselling Centre.”