New book tells Baptist history in Cayman

Pastor Randall Von Kanel’s new book tells the history of the Baptist Church in the Cayman Islands. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Pastor Randall Von Kanel said the idea for his new book came during the middle of a speech.

In 2012, he was recounting a brief history of the Baptist Church’s more than 125 years in the Cayman Islands during an anniversary celebration of the arrival of the first Baptist missionaries on Cayman Brac.

“I was giving an oral history,” said Mr. Von Kanel, pastor of the Cayman Islands Baptist Church. “I realized it wasn’t sufficient.”

His new book, “Our Baptist Story,” he said, is not only a more complete account of the church’s history in Cayman, but a look back at the beginnings of the Christian denomination, which emerged during the Reformation, and how it grew into its current state.

Mr. Von Kanel, 64, has a long history of his own with Cayman. He first came to Grand Cayman in 1978 as a missionary journeyman and a music and youth worker. As part of his mission, he established the first youth band with the help of Triple C School.

After a two-year stint, Mr. Von Kanel, a native of Pascagoula, Mississippi, returned to the United States.

“I left and thought I’d never be back,” he said.

He was wrong. In 1992, he returned to serve as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cayman. He served until 1998, when he took the position of executive director of Global Outreach International in Tupelo, Mississippi.

He came back to serve as pastor of Cayman Islands Baptist Church in 2009 and has been there since.

Mr. Von Kanel said he appreciates the people of Cayman and the way religion is woven into the community.

“To be able to pray at a public event,” he said, “we used to do that in the U.S., but we don’t anymore.”

The target audience for his book is his fellow Baptists, he said, but he hopes others will appreciate it as well.

“I wrote it so Baptists will learn who we are and live that way,” he said. “We are champions of freedom.”

Chapters in the book are dedicated to the development of the Baptist faith in England and America, its splintering into various branches, and the church’s role in the emancipation movement in Jamaica.

It was Jamaican Baptists who originally came to Cayman Brac in 1885 and helped establish a network of churches on the island. A series of missionary ministers followed until two devastating hurricanes in the 1930s left not only the churches, but nearly everything else in need of rebuilding.

: The Brac Baptists turned to the American Baptists for help and, according to Von Kanel, that has been the primary influence on the islands parishioners since. He’d like to see the local Baptist community have its own influence

The Brac Baptists turned to the American Baptists for help and, according to Mr. Von Kanel, that has been the primary influence on the islands’ parishioners since. He’d like to see the local Baptist community have its own influence.

“Maybe a rebirth of that faith and freedom will help us in the modern era,” he said.

A launch party to promote the book is scheduled for 11 a.m. on July 21 at George Town Public Library. It can also be purchased by calling the church office at 946-2422.

The book costs $25, and proceeds from sales will go toward the seminary recently established by the Cayman Islands Baptist Church, and toward the church’s work in Little Cayman.