Church of God Chapel West Bay celebrated its 80th birthday with a special service and guest speaker Sunday evening.
Members of Church of God islandwide attended the evening’s celebrations held at the Christian Life Hall on Town Hall Road.
The lively celebration featured lots of music and praise thanking the Lord for the church’s 80 years, and words of encouragement by visiting Cuban pastor Raul Martinez. “Now is the time of God’s favor and of grace for the people and the church,” he said by way of a Spanish-to-English translator.
Leaders who have played a part in the church’s progress were also acknowledged. Amber Ebanks, Rosita Bodden, Mary Borden, Elizabeth Bowen, Mario and Lovenia Ebanks, Alfred Powery, Lucy Simpson and Ruby Smith were given plaques for their dedication.
The congregation then sang “The Gospel Bells are Ringing,” which was the first gospel song sung at the church years ago.
West Bay Church of God Chapel had modest beginnings, starting with a small group that met and prayed in various locations in West Bay. The leaders of the church were Calvin Ebanks, Chrissie Banker, Enna Ebanks and Elsie Rivers, according to church documents.
Harold Andrews, pastor of the George Town Church of God Chapel, was the first pastor of the West Bay Church. He took some of the members from the George Town congregation in Boatswains Bay and began having services in the Boatswains Bay lighthouse. Worshipers used the benches from the nearby government school.
In later years, the church purchased a plot of land at Goat Yard in West Bay, and constructed a booth to hold meetings. When the booth was destroyed in 1941 by heavy winds, the church moved to the second floor of the home of William and Chrissie Banker and then to the Dennis Parson’s Store.
Years later, a small plot of land was purchased from Prentice Powell on Town Hall Road and a new building was started with the financial assistance of Orren Merren Jr. The building was completed in May 1948, according to church records. A parsonage was built at the back of the building in later years.
The congregation grew and prospered, until 22 years later, a new church was built on the same property and dedicated on June 7, 1970.
Hurricane Ivan destroyed that building in 2004. The remains were knocked down and construction started on a new hall called the “Christian Life Center,” which is where the congregation worships today.
The church is presently constructing a new 5,000-square-foot worship center on the same site which, was initially planned to be completed in 2010.
In its 80-year history, the West Bay Church of God has been led by 18 pastors. The first was founder Rev. Harold Andrews; he was succeeded by Leslie Ratzlaff, Norman Atkins, Charles Carlman, Melvon Carder, James Chapman, Calvin Ebanks, Gerald Erickson, Ray Hastings, Wilbur Hunter, Dewey Johnson, Albert Kempin, Arthur Kluge, Ellis Smith, William Todd, Paul Whalen, Edgar Williams and Pastor Stanwyck Myles, who is the eighteenth and current pastor, having served for some 27 years.
For Sunday’s anniversary service, Pastor Myles prayed for the building to be completed.
Pastor Alson Ebanks of the George Town Church of God sang his version of “Hallelujah.” Amber Ebanks did a gospel dance and Pastor Elizabeth Bowen closed the night’s celebration in prayer.