A Collective Congregational Effort
Lord of the living harvest
That whitens o’er the plain
Where angels soon shall gather
Their sheaves of golden grain
Accepts these hands to labour
These hearts to trust and love
And deign with them to hasten
Thy kingdom from above
The Cassada Gardens Methodist Church came into being because of the response of many dedicated Christians to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Several inspired Methodists responded to the call for Christ’s Church to be established in the Cassada Gardens area.
The idea of establishing a Methodist Church in the Clare Hall and Cassada Gardens area was probably first expressed in the mid-1970’s when Rev. Dr. S. Wilfred Hodge was the Superintendent Minister of the Antigua Circuit. Open-air services were held in the area as a first step, but when he was transferred, the idea became dormant for a while. During the ministry of Rev. Neville D. Brodie (1982 – 1991), the idea was again revived and was spoken about on several occasions. Occasionally, open air services were held in the area, and an application was made to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for a piece of land on which the chapel could be cited.
Definitive steps towards the establishment of the Cassada Gardens Methodist Church were taken in November 1991 under the guidance of Rev. Dr. H. Clifton Niles who had recently moved to Antigua to assume duties as Secretary of the MCCA. Rev Niles related how one late afternoon he and then President the late Rev Eric Clarke were standing outside the conference centre at Belmont and looking down on the plains which include the Clare Hall, Cassada Gardens and surrounding areas. As they talked about the social problem and the need for Methodists witness in the area, Rev Niles said he recalled how some sixteen years previously he had participated in Open Air Services in Clare Hall, because a new Church was to be established there. Sixteen years later, there was still only talk. As the two men discussed and lamented the apparent loss of missionary zeal among modern Methodists, Rev Niles said he felt a strong sense of anger and frustration over the many lost opportunities and the resultant slow growth of the Methodist Church. He resolved to do something about it. He immediately left, went to the telephone and called Bro Dennis Bowers and asked him if he was interested in developing a Methodist witness in the Clare Hall/Cassada Gardens area. Without hesitation, Bro Bowers replied, “yes” and then went on to say how he longed to see a Methodist presence in the area. Through the assistance of Bro Bowers, they were able to put together a team of persons who shared a similar interest.
After some weeks of planning, making contacts and consultation with the then Superintendent Minister Rev. Joseph Lloyd, a group of eight persons met on Thursday November 21, 1991 at 7 pm in a classroom at the Clare Hall Secondary School to formally discuss the development of the Methodist Church in Cassada Gardens. They were: Rev. Dr. H Clifton Niles, Bro Dennis Bowers, Dr. George Walter, Sis. Gertrude Spencer, Sis. Marilyn Richards, Sis. Stephanie Archibald and Sis. Felicity Aymer. They were told that a committee had been named two years previously, but had not really functioned.
At that meeting, Sis. Gertrude Spencer reported how since February of that year she had felt the strong urging of the Holy Spirit to look about the acquiring of land in the area for the Church. After many months of follow up with the relevant authorities, it was discovered that all lands in the area had been sold, except one plot that had been reserved for a community project. Acting on this revelation, Sis Spencer immediately made a request to the constituency representative, Hon. Lester Bird, to donate the plot of land to the Methodist Church, since one of the church’s aims was to participate in community development. Mr. Bird responded positively to the request.
The group met again on Friday, November 29 and agreed to ask several members to sponsor a weekly
prayer meeting in their homes for the month of December. They agreed also, that on the first Lord’s Day of 1992, they would meet for worship. On Sunday January 5, 1992 at 11 am eighteen persons gathered for worship in one of the classrooms at the Clare Hall Secondary School. The preacher was the Rev. Dr. H. Clifton Niles. It was not too long afterwards that the room became too small for those who attended the services. The situation prompted the congregation to begin to think about erecting a building where they could meet for worship. In the meantime, God open another door. The School auditorium that was under construction was completed and the growing congregation was able to meet there for worship.
The Church became a full Society in January 1993, when the Leeward Island District Synod met in Dominica and approved the application. Permission was given to the society by Synod to erect a multi-purpose Hall, with the understanding that no funds whatsoever would be given from the District or Circuit. The Society, in faith, accepted the challenge. A building committee was formed comprising: Bro. George Walter ( Chairman), Bro. Webster Richards (Asst. Chairman), Sis. Cecilia Henry (Secretary), Rev. Dr. Clifton Niles, Bro. Dennis Bowers, Sis. Iola Bowers, Bro. Lowell Spencer, Sis. Gertrude Spencer, Sis Marilyn Richards, Bro. Ulric Graham, Bro. Hugh Pigott, Bro. Walton Theodore. Help was given by Mr. Charlesworth Davis, an Architect who drew the plan and Mr. Cedric Henry, Engineer. After much discussion, it was decided that a building 40 feet by 80 feet would be erected.
On Sunday 19th January 1992, the Honourable Lester Bird handed over to the Church the plot of land that it had requested. On Tuesday 19th January 1993, a ground-breaking ceremony took place. Work on the hall started soon after, under the supervision of a hard-working and dedicated contractor, Webster Richards. Bro George Walter and Bro Dennis Bowers faithfully organized and oversaw the venture which was undertaken by faith.
Contributions to the Scheme include pledges, tithing, special efforts, gifts of time, talents and resources. These came not only from members of the congregation, but from other Methodists’ societies and non-Methodist donors. God truly blessed this work. One year after ground-breaking, the building was completed. The Chapel was opened on the 30th January 1994 to coincide with the meeting of Synod that was held that year in Antigua.
As some would know, this edifice is the Church Hall and Community Centre. Now God has put it in our hearts to break ground in the near future for the Sanctuary (east of the building). Like Nehemiah, we will rise up and build. We enlist the prayers and support of all our friends and well-wishers in the upcoming venture.
Today, the Church has grown: we have 112 members, 33 males and 79 females. The following organizations are operating – Church School, Boy Scouts, Women’s League, Youth Fellowship. We have regular prayer meetings and Bible Study. The Education Committee has organized Leadership development and training seminars. Plans to have a Christian Counseling Centre as well as Home Economics classes, and outreach programmes have been discussed and with God’s guidance will be implemented. We are well on to developing a programme geared for mission expansion.
Over the years, the Secretaries of the Connexional Conference have assisted with pastoring the congregation. Presently, Circuit Deacon Rev Andrine Joseph co-pastors the congregation with the Rev Otto Wade. They are ably assisted by Congregational Stewards: Cecelia Henry, Evon Challenger, Orbin Anderson; Care Fund Stewards: Gemma Andrews, Glendora Martin and Emesta Payne; Property Stewards: David Joseph, Lowell Spencer, Ulric Graham, Michael Jeremiah. The Standing Committees are led by: Yolanda Goodwin (Mission and Evangelism); Gertrude Spencer with secretary Orbin Anderson (Organization and Education) and Cecelia Henry with secretary Condaisy Carter (Resources and Development). Cecelia Henry serves as secretary for the Congregational Pastoral Council.
David Joseph is the Church School Superintendent; the Cradle Roll Secretary is Yolanda Goodwin; Glendora Martin leads the Children and Youth Choirs; Lucy Horsford is the President of the Women’s Fellowship; while Gertrude Spencer and Casilla Carrette lead the Members in Training Class. We record our sincere thanks and appreciation to our faithful band of Class Leaders who have exercised nurture and care of members over these years and to our fully accredited preacher Cicely King.
God has been good to us and we give him the Glory. We have come this far by faith, and by faith, we will move on, secure in the Knowledge that God has commissioned us to spread the good news of his Kingdom in this part of his Vineyard.