The history of Yallahs Baptist Church is a long and fascinating one, and with the help of people who have been identified with this community, it is a pleasure to recall highlights and other events which form this intriguing history.
Location: the church building is located twenty miles to the east of Kingston in the Parish of St. Thomas. The village is named Knightsville, and is a heavily populated district on the main road.
Available historical data indicates that many of the Christians were slaves who worked at a sugar estate in Albion, a neighbouring district. At the end of each week, many of these slaves would travel on foot to Kingston where they met other slaves for worship. The need for a place to worship near home became necessary and by 1890 something tangible to achieve this end was done, and the first Baptist Mission House was erected. In 1912 the Rev. Edwards, a black minister, laid the cornerstone for the present chapel.
It must be noted that this was the first Baptist Church to be erected in St. Thomas. The building programme was a slow process as the work was carried on chiefly through free labour. This effort was cause for joy to the many Baptists who participated.
On the day appointed, women and children could be seen carrying stones on their heads from the river nearby while the men manned the carts which were loaned to them by officers of the church.
Regular worship was considered an essential part of life and so very early each Sunday morning, the residents in and around Yallahs were awakened by the melodious sounds of the Baptist Church bell, which was a reminder that it was the Lord's Day and they were bidden not to forget the assembling of themselves together. In those days humble folks from far and near started the journey so as to be on time for morning worship. The singing of hymns together made the distance seem shorter, and the spirit of unity was displayed continuously. It is said that in many cases shoes were carried lovingly, not worn on the journey, only put on near the Chapel Gate.
Believers’ baptism, then as now became one of the highlights of church life. Candidates attended enquirers’ class for not less than three months and were prepared by the leaders at the various class houses which were located in each district.
On the Saturday night before Baptismal Sunday, candidates met at the mother church for a grand testimony meeting. This continued sometimes until late at nights after which the candidates retired for the night at the homes of other brethren who took loving care of them.
Very early on Sunday morning, groups of people bearing lanterns and bottle torches, came from opposite directions, marching and singing towards the chapel again. What glorious singing there was!
At six a.m. the march to the riverside began with regal solemnity as minister and candidates led the way, followed by the whole community including Anglican worshippers.
Throughout the years, the church has had to organise various functions to raise funds to carry on the work, and this gave rise to a number of rallies, silver tree, harvest suppers and dramas. One of the earliest rallies took the form of a "Crown Drive". Each and every member of the church vied to see who could collect the greatest number of crowns (5 shillings). Rally day came and great was the joy when a harvest of crowns was collected, and a handsome pulpit was purchased for the sum of forty pounds (J$80.00).
STORM 1951 AND DESTRUCTION OF THE BUILDING
It was a sultry day in Yallahs on August 17, 1951 when adults and children alike went about performing their usual chores and necessary business of the day. Later storm warnings and various bulletins were sent out informing the nation of an impending storm. As usual some people ignored the warning and took no necessary precautions, but as the evening approached, it began to rain heavily. The foul weather continued and at night heavy winds developed. The velocity increased, and in less than an hour this and surrounding districts were stricken.
Only the walls of our beloved chapel remained intact. Everything on the inside was destroyed including pulpit, organ, chairs and benches.
Many persons recalled that shortly after the storm began, many houses belonging to residents of Knightsville, were smashed like match boxes and many people decided to seek shelter in the Baptist Church. To their dismay on their arrival there, the roof had been blown away. The occupants of the mission house miraculously escaped unhurt though the destruction there too was complete.
OUR NEW BUILDING PROGRAMME
Despite the destruction, the Baptist community did not take too long to regroup.
Our first thought was how to find a place for worship and a plan was made whereby we gained permission from the Ministry of Education, through the Principal of the Primary School, Mr. W. W. Lewis, to allow the Baptists, the use of the school building and piano. Under the leadership of Rev. C.S. Samuels, we continued to worship in the school for more than a year, even holding a Rally so as to start a building fund.
Our activities continued and soon the roof of the church was replaced. The builder was Mr. McGanicle, at his suggestion the roof was lowered to its present height and negotiations were completed to insure the building against natural phenomenon.
The Chapel was incomplete but a decision was taken to rebuild the Manse so that the church could invite a resident Minister. Rev. R. A. G. Johnson was at that time acting Minister on loan from our sister Church at Trinityville. In a few months the dream became a reality and our beautiful Manse was ready for occupancy. The Manse was dedicated on November 30, 1969.
Mr. Jerry Gallimore presided, Rev. D. Millwood a former Minister of the church was guest speaker and Mr. J. J. Williams who served the church voluntarily headed the list of invited guests.
Once more, efforts were directed at continuing the work on the Chapel. A new spirit was injected into the congregation by the leader, Rev. Richard L. Ledgister. That new spirit permeated throughout the district and the whole Parish witnessed the power of unity.
Work has been completed and it is being utilised a lot. This is where my youth fellowship had most of its meetings. It has lots of space and houses Pastor's and the Church offices. Clicking on the image of the new building will show you a video of its dedication in 2008
MINISTERS WHO SERVED THE YALLAHS BAPTIST CHURCH
Rev. Joshua Tinson (1828-1837)
Rev. William Nash (1843-1844)
Rev. Robert Graham (1845-1859)
Rev. Edwin Palmer (1859-1891)
Rev. T. Gordon Somers (1893-1896)
Rev. T. N. Brown (1898-1900)
Rev. W. H. Rutter (1901-1912)
Rev. J. A. Edwards (1912 -
Rev. T. J. Gallimore (1914-
Rev. M. B. Burgess (1922-
Rev. P. Bragg (1927-
Rev. W. Copeland Bennet (1928-1942)
Rev. Noe. B. Francis (1945-
Rev. David A. Morgan (1947-
Rev. H. T. Whitelock (1948 -
Rev. Spurgeon Smith (1951-
Rev. Denis Millwood
Rev. Leo. Erskine (1960-
Rev. R. A. Johnson (1964-1969)
Rev. Joseph N. Edwards (1970-1972)
Rev. Richard Ledgister
Rev. Barris Malcom (1979-1984)
Rev. Carlton Wilson (1989-1996)
Rev. Fritzner Dunois (2001-2008)
Rev. Peter Harding [Moderated] (October 2008 - June 2009)
Rev. Brenda Walker (July 2009 -