Baxter Memorial

By Sister Daisy Messiah  – Baxter Memorial Congregation

And are we yet alive
And see each other’s face?
Glory and praise to Jesus give
For His redeeming grace!

The name of the Methodist Church in English Harbour is Baxter Memorial Methodist Church. It is situated on the most southern end of the island and is sixteen miles away from St John’s, the capital. This chapel serves English Harbour and the surrounding villages of Falmouth, Cobbs Cross and Picadilly, in the parish of St Paul’s.

The church was named after John Baxter, a white shipwright who came from the Chathan Dockyard in England to work in the Nelson’s Dockyard here. Baxter arrived in Antigua on April 02, 1778 and that same year he began working with ships and preaching. This preaching he did among the slaves who were his members. Baxter would always preach in a small house in the Nelson’s Dockyard known as “Baxter’s House.” This Baxter did though he always found time to preach to the growing congregation in St John’s.

Because of the growing congregation, Baxter’s house soon proved very small and they started meeting at the home of Charles and Elizabeth Thwaites. This was a family who had come out of England to work under Government employment and who was granted a bigger, more spacious and accommodating house to live in. Along with the preaching, Baxter and the Thwaites began to teach and this was very well accepted by everyone. Through the efforts of two sisters Elizabeth Thwaites and Ann Gilbert, the first Sunday School in the West Indies was opened here in English Harbour on 29th May, 1809. This teaching which was to slaves in English Harbour and St John’s was an instrument of transmitting the faith, but also an avenue for the congregation of children of different colour and circumstances. The slave children were taught to read by day and their parents by night. Despite the fact that they wanted to help on the plantation, the children were not allowed to do so until they could read the New Testament. Through the efforts of the Thwaites a solid foundation was laid for elementary and secondary education here in Antigua.

On 29th May, 1813, the Sunday School that was started in English Harbour formed a society known as the English Harbour Sunday School Society. This served the surrounding villages and was under the leadership and guidance of Honorable Lady Grey. In the late 17th century and early 18th century, Sunday School was held at 3pm every Sunday. Since then, our meetings times for church school and morning worship have gone through many changes. Our morning worship services were once held at 11am but this time was changed to 7:30am on a trial basis in 1977, primarily because of a shortage of ministers in the Circuit. Church school at that time was moved to 10am. Our worship service time was finally changed to 7am with Church School remaining at 10am.

The present Baxter Memorial Chapel was dedicated on February 28, 1999 and is one of the many buildings that were built for the Methodist people in the area. There is record of a wooden structure that was built in 1846, and subsequently destroyed by the hurricane of 1848. There is also a two-storied wooden structure that was destroyed by the hurricane of 1924. The chapel immediately preceding the current chapel was concrete and dedicated on Monday 28th November 1927. This 1927 chapel was extended in 1962 when the vestry was added. The Reverend Geoffrey D Gordon, an English minister, was the pastor of the congregation at that time. It was on the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary in 1977 of this 1927 chapel, that the congregation was renamed “Baxter Memorial” in memory of John Baxter. The minister in charge at the time of the renaming was the Reverend J Evans Dodds and the Reverend Leonard Carty was the superintendent. This 1927 chapel was demolished on March 26, 2007, during the tenure of Rev Novelle Josiah. The hinges for the shutters of this old chapel were donated to Gilbert Memorial for use in its renovation scheme. The site presently serves as part of the paved parking. Thanks to the parliamentary representative and the Public Works Department.

Our present chapel is quoted as being the brainchild of Rev Neville Brodie, an Antiguan who was in charge of the church for seven (7) years but had to leave before the new church building began. Rev Leroy Henry was the pastor in charge when the sod was turned for the building, this was a Sunday afternoon in 1997. He too had to leave before completion. Rev Oral Thomas, another Antiguan was in charge upon completion. Rev Brodie was the guest speaker at the dedication on February 28th 1999.

Many persons laboured to see this new chapel come to fruition. These included but not limited to Monica Edwards, Brenda and Lenroy Skepple, Christine Hector, Paulet Hinkson, Vivian James, Daisy Browne, Dora Malone, Enid Clarke, Alice Scott, Gretel and Nicholas Quashie, George Malone, Shiela Weste, David Messiah, Roma Southwell, John Francis, Wanda Clarke, Mrs Helen Jackson and Mr Jackson and family, the late Leonard Benjamin, Frank Edwards, Avis Donawa-Mascall and Hugh Jackson, who have gone on to their reward and all our members and well wishers who contributed in one way or the other.

Among our early stalwarts who are still alive today is Iris Henry, who was a church school teacher and served as organist for five (5) years. She presently worships at Ebenezer. Of those who have gone on to their reward are: Daisy Romeo who was a church school teacher and organist; Mary Moore, a very outstanding lady in English Harbour who served as organist. It was in her home that the visiting Methodist ministers found relaxation after a busy schedule. After Ms Moore became senile the ministers were being looked after by Edith Gilbert who was the Society Steward. Raymond who was called Paro was a faithful sexton for many years. Violet Carr, mother of Edric Potter and Ida Joseph was another of our sextons for several years. Sister Helen Francis was always the biggest collector for Missions followed by her sister Georgiana Francis and Delores Hector, Adred Clarke, Christobelle Thomas and Yvonne (Vernie) Southwell. Their efforts contributed to making the Baxter Memorial Congregation the second largest collector for missions in the circuit.

Worthy of mention are a number of our faithful workers who have now passed on to their reward. They include: Celestine Fortune, Anne, Margaret and Georgina Harney, Charlotte Hart, John Drew, Mildred Drew, Ethel Baxter, Maurice Henry, Rupert Horsford, Sarah Horsford, Keturah Hunte, Hubert and Nora Malone, Jane Anne Jeffrey, Ilva Spencer, Myrtle Richards.

Two members of the congregation are fully pledged ministers. They are the Rev Cuthbert Edwards who was inducted as President of the South Caribbean District Conference on August 31, 2008; and the Rev Derek Browne, who will be inducted as President of the Bahamas Turks and Caicos District with effect September 1, 2010. We give thanks for the life of Sister Charlotte Gilbert of our congregation who celebrated her 100th birthday in January of this year.

Our church has an active ministry at this time. Bible Study and Prayer Meeting are held on Mondays, Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade meet on Wednesdays and Youth Fellowship on Fridays. There are two active choirs- the Senior and the Youth Choirs and a steel orchestra. The Little People’s Choir that was directed by the late Christine Hector is presently inactive. In the 1960 bi-centenary youth contest, the Baxter Junior Choir placed second in the singing competition, rendering the hymn #814 and first in the choral speaking competition, rendering canticle #73 (MHB).

Reverend Nichola Barrett-Glasgow, who is presently the minister in charge, is our first female minister. She is ably assisted by Congregational Stewards: Monica Edwards, Brenda Skepple and John Francis; Care Fund Stewards: Daisy Messiah, Jane Thomas and Sheila Weste; Property Stewards: George Malone and David Messiah. We are presently without a sexton. The Standing Committees are led by: Vivian James with secretary Andrea Hector (Mission and Evangelism), Brenda Skepple with secretary Chazia Weste (Organization and Education) and Monica Edwards with secretary Charese James (Resources and Development). We acknowledge the contributions of our faithful band of Class Leaders and our Local Preachers Lenroy Skepple and John Francis.

Leaders of our groups and organizations are as follows: Church School Superintendent- Brenda Skepple; Cradle Roll Secretary – Andrea Hector who is ably assisted by Marcia Richards; Girls’ Brigade – Captain Brenda Skepple with Officer Tracelyn Weste; Boys’ Brigade – Captain Nicholas Quashie; Senior Choir Director: Lenroy Skepple; Youth Choir Director – Paulet Hinkson; Steel Orchestra Director – John Francis; Ushers Ministry Director – Tracelyn Weste; Youth Fellowship Adult Mentors – Paulette Weste and Josian James; Women’s Group President – Monica Edwards; Young Adults Group President – Joyce Browne. Our present organists are Lenroy Skepple and Carson Freeland. We acknowledge the contribution of Bob Maginley who previously served as organist.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

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