Adventist Church celebrates 125th anniversary in Cayman

Pastor Reinaldo Dracket, president of the Cayman Islands Adventist Conference, displays a framed photograph of Gilbert Magdaly McLaughlin, the first Adventist convert in the Cayman Islands. The photograph now hangs in the lobby of the church in East End, the birthplace of Adventism in the Cayman Islands. At right is Nelda Rose Dracket.

The local Adventist Church is celebrating its 125th anniversary in the Cayman Islands this year.

A weekend-long celebration began on 31 May with an evening service, followed by a church service the following morning, and concluding with a social event at Bodden Town’s Heritage park on 1 June.

The church traces its beginning in Cayman to 1894 and to the islands’ first Adventist convert, East End native Gilbert Magdaly McLaughlin, the great grandfather of Premier Alden McLaughlin, a press release from the church noted.

Among the civic leaders who joined the church to mark the anniversary were Premier McLaughlin; Health Minister and Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour; Leader of the Opposition and East End MLA Arden McLean; and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller.

Pastor Michael Smith represented the Bahamas headquarters of Cayman’s churches. Other participants included Linford Pierson, former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Cabinet minister, and now an elder of the George Town Adventist Church. Pierson, whose late parents Varion and Cicely Pierson were among the pillars of the district’s church, presented a historic account of the founding of the Adventist Church in the Cayman Islands.

At the 1 June morning service, Premier McLaughlin reflected on his great grandfather’s role in establishing the church that has grown from the biblical “mustard seed”, he said, to today’s more than 6,000 members.

The release noted, “A young sea captain, pioneer McLaughlin had been converted to Adventism in Bonacca, Honduras, during a visit in 1894.

“Returning to Cayman later that year, he soon built a small tabernacle that later gave way to a larger though still rustic building on land that he purchased. The current church, recently refurbished with the help of the community and members, today stands on the same plot of land.”

The premier said that despite being the only baptised Adventist on island for 11 years, his great grandfather remained faithful. It was not until 1905 when Pastor Frank Hall arrived from Jamaica that the first group of Adventists, 20 strong, including pioneer McLaughlin’s wife Rachel and their five children, were baptised.

Premier McLaughlin said that he had not known his great grandfather, who had died 13 years before he was born to Gilbert’s eldest grandson son Alden McNee McLaughlin.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, centre, the great grandson of Gilbert Magdaly McLaughlin, founder of the Adventist Church in the Cayman Islands, flanked by family members on his left and church officials on his right. – Photos: Submitted

The premier said his great grandfather, known in the district as Magdaly, persevered despite great opposition at the time because “he believed he had been specially appointed” to establish the church in the Cayman Islands.

Speaking of the growth of the church over the past 125 years, the premier said, “You have every reason to be proud; you have every reason to thank God; you have every reason to celebrate.”

The Adventist chain was broken in his family when the premier’s grandfather, Allen McLaughlin, for whom the East End Civic Centre is named, returned from teacher training in Jamaica. An Adventist at the time, he converted to the Presbyterian faith as the price for securing his bride’s hand in marriage.

The premier said, however, that shortly before his grandfather’s death, he returned to his early teachings and called for an Adventist minister, and only “then was he totally at peace”, adding: “Do not give up on me; I, too, will find my way back.”

In his concluding remarks at the Saturday morning service, Pastor Smith brought congratulations from the church’s headquarters, saying that he and his colleagues were “overjoyed to see how the church has grown” in the Cayman Islands, and that among the 32,000 members across the territories administered by the church in this area of the Caribbean region, Cayman constituted “a valuable part”.

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