THE CHURCH OF GOD
(SEVENTH DAY) JAMAICA CONFERENCE
The Church of God (Seventh Day) Jamaica Conference grew out of the effort of Elder James Murray of Trinidad who, on the request of one Sis. Hannah Smith visited Jamaica on June 14, 1930. Sis. Smith's home, which was then situated at 29 Long Mountain Road, now Mountain View Avenue, was the first venue for prayer meetings and Bible Studies. As this evangelical work intensified it was a matter of time before the trappings of the early church body emerged.
After a stay of two and a half months, Elder Murray returned to Trinidad, but soon came back to Jamaica to continue the work he had started in Sis. Smith's home. The house church grew rapidly and therefore during 1931-33 a proper place was sought to construct a building.
By this time, Elder Charles J. Ellis who was then an Adventist returning home from Panama became a part of the church. Under the direction of Elder Murray, Elder Ellis was given the responsibility to supervise the work here in Jamaica. On November 4, 1933 he was chosen by the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) Salem, West Virginia as representative of the British West Indies.
After the death of Elder Murray, Elder Ellis became the recognized leader in the Caribbean. Under his leadership the Church of God (Seventh Day) was officially established and recognized in the Caribbean.
For administrative expediency and a sustained effort of functional support among our churches the Executive Board created five divisions or zones across the island in 1993. The zones and their leaders were mandated to ensure, through a range of programmes, the spiritual and physical development of their constituents (churches, and members). The Executive Board meets with each zone at least once per year to discuss reports from the leaders and generally to strategize for future endeavours.
Zone 1 embraces the parishes of Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Thomas.
Zone 2 is unique for having only one parish in it - St. Catherine.
Zone 3 stretches across the borders of St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland.
Zone 4 consists of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
Zone 5 covers Trelawny, Hanover, St. James and Westmoreland.
Zone 1 is peculiar for having the greatest number of leaders living outside its geographical boundaries. Yet this phenomenon has not significantly affected the passion members in the zone have for its activities.
For the first time a district convention was held in this zone at the church in Seaforth, St. Thomas in 2002. The event, a prototype of national convocation, provided meaningful interaction among members and ignited fresh motivation within them. Incidentally the Seaforth Church is the most prosperous group in the zone in terms of its physical and human resources. The church has a rich endowment of instruments and musicians; it operates a pre-school for the community; it runs a micro-business to generate funds for church programmes and plans are in the pipeline to conduct computer training among members of the church and residents in the community, to improve their competence of the technological tool.
The Maxfield Avenue church, the largest congregation in the zone (and conference), is the current headquarters of the church. The church is one of the oldest in the conference and is home to many of the conference's past and present leaders.
Zone 2 is perhaps the most diverse zone in terms of its demography, geography, resource base and programmes. Zone 2 presents contrasts of varying forms and dimensions. It is a melting pot of ethnic groups, traditions, gifts and talents, even as this section of the island contains some of the most ardent challenges poverty, unemployment and dislocation of families. Most members of this zone are concentrated in the Spanish Town/Portmore region, but a substantial portion of the church population in this zone reside in Old Harbour, Linstead and other major towns in the parish. Undoubtedly, the largest memberships and some of the most progressive church groups are found in zone 2. This particular phenomenon represents both a success and encouragement an opportunity and a challenge.
Each church has a unique personality, which not only enriches the quality of its programmes within the zone, but also the service of general conference. For example:
Braeton operates a soup kitchen regularly for the indigent and shut in the community.
Golden Grove and Davis there is a strong tradition of community and family in these churches. More than 50% of their members come from one or two dominant family trees and live in the immediate environs of the churches.
Crescent, Ewarton and Spanish Town these churches are but few in the zone which are pursuing the most ambitious building projects in the conference.
Red Hills has an impressive model of community evangelism that has been built on an active sports ministry.
The future headquarters of the conference will be housed on lands located at Darling Pen, near the Spanish Town round-a-bout. When completed, the new building will serve as a multipurpose complex for members of the church and the wider society.
Every year since 1998, there has been a national evangelistic crusade at Darling Pen. In 2001, the crusade was supported by brethren from affiliated branches of the church in North America and it received considerable news coverage. A number of believers accepted the Lord Jesus, evidenced by the profession of their faith in Him and Baptism in His name.
The heterogeneity and unique characteristics of zone 2 are not in any way divisive. Instead they portray the multidimensional qualities of the church, which in turn stimulate new ideas and solutions to meet the zone's varying needs.
The present leader of Zone 2 is Bro. Junior Gordon. An enthusiast with great leadership skills, Bro. Gordon works with a team of ten pastors and four evangelists.
The members and leaders of Zone 3 are used to getting heir hands dirty to do the work of the church. They have a great zeal to evangelize and know that teamwork is key in order to be successful. Like all other zones, the constituents of Zone 3 face challenges but there is a noticeable streak of innovation and optimism within the members. For example, the members in St. Mary have ventured off into farming to raise funds to support and sustain their zone activities. The members plant crops and rear animals and use the profits from the sale of these products to invest in their evangelical and church ministries.
Mile End is one of the most outstanding church groups in Zone 3. It is situated on the outskirts of the Garden Parish (St. Ann) and has the largest congregation in the zone. The church has been hosting a District Youth Convention for the past couple of years.
There is a wave of revival that is sweeping across Zone 4. This vitality and new upsurge in dynamism is largely attributable to the pioneering work of Pastor Rohan Tummings at the church in Lancaster. This enthusiasm has transferred to other areas of the zone and is fuelling new vision among the other seven churches and seven pastors, who serve the zone.
For well over ten years, the Youth Summer Camp has been held at various sites in the parish of St. Elizabeth. The annual event has complemented the general zone outreach activities in communities such as Bethlehem, Malvern and Elim.
This zone is the smallest but its members have a big heart. The zone consists of five churches and three pastors, who work mainly in the parish of St. James. By virtue of the fact that it embraces Montego Bay, which is the island's tourism centre, Zone 5 is strategically placed to explore a new brand of evangelism within a unique target group.
Street meetings, house to house witnessing and crusades are held in Montego Bay and adjoining parishes, on a regular basis.