By Sister Angella Joseph – Freemansville Congregation
We are watchers of a beacon whose light must never die
We are guardians of an altar that shows Thee ever nigh
We are children of Thy freemen who sleep beneath the sod
For the might of Thine arm we bless Thee, our God, our fathers’ God
The very first Methodist Church in Franchibelle as Freemansville was then called, was established about 1872. It was located about 1.5 miles northwest of the present church in the old village. The slave women who apparently brought their religion from the nearby North Sound Estate can be credited for introducing Methodism in Freemansville.
For many years, the Methodist Church was the only church within the community and it provided Christian nourishment for the residents of the surrounding estates such as Freeman’s, Belle View, Sanderson’s, Jonas and the established community of Franchibelle. The Church did not only provide spiritual guidance, but also an early education for children and night school for the adults.
The Church was located on pasture land and was affected by the heat of the sun and the flint stones that caused grass fires. This was a problem. By 1910, a second Chapel was constructed on higher grounds. During the 1923 and 1950 hurricanes, the church was used as a shelter for residents of the area. Various hurricanes as well as termites severely damaged the second chapel and so a third building was constructed of re-enforced concrete and concrete blocks. This was dedicated to the glory of God in 1954. This is the building that we now occupy.
As the Congregation grows and the demands of its ministry change, it had become necessary for it to consider yet again the construction of a new chapel as it had long outgrown the utility of its present structure. The discussion on whether to extend the present structure, build a Church Hall, or built a new chapel extended over many years and may be dated as far back as the 1980’s during the tenure of the Rev M Peterson Joseph, when it was decided that a new chapel was the best option. Definitive efforts were taken during the tenure of the Rev Dr Oral Thomas when plans were drawn for a multipurpose structure including a chapel and a pre-school. Numerous block drives and fund raising efforts were undertaken to procure the needed blocks and ground broken to commence construction around 1999. Construction never started at that time. In 2007 during the tenure of the Rev Dr Novelle Josiah the project was scaled down, by removing the pre-school [as the old chapel could be converted into this], in an effort to make the project more manageable for the congregation. New plans drawn which only now has a chapel received the endorsement of the January 2008 District Conference. In preparation for the start of construction, a Service for the Blessing of the New Chapel Building Project was held on Sunday 25th May, 2008. However due to delays in obtaining local government approvals, construction of phase one which is now completed, never got started until April 2009. The contractor for phase one was Brother Thomas (Tommy) Joseph with Brother James (Claxton) Ferris serving as the project supervisor. With phase one completed, the congregation looks forward to the commencement of phase II and the eventual completion of this new chapel. This new (4th) chapel is presently built on the site where the third (3rd) chapel previously rests. It was also in 2007 that the congregation acquired the adjoining plot of land, [west of the present chapel] that provides much needed parking for members.
Throughout those many years, there were several stalwarts of the church who have made significant contributions to its growth. The Freemansville Methodist Church has had local preachers like Mr Drew, Thaddeus James, Harold Smith, Alfred Mack and Keithlyn Smith. It presently has three local preachers in the persons of Angella Joseph, Eusalyn Lewis and Junie Ruddy.
We recognize the contribution of the Pigott’s family, who were some of the noted organists of the congregation. Enid, Helen and Eustace Pigott took turns playing the organ while their mother prepared
the elements for Holy Communion. Llewellyn smith served as organist for a number of years. We recognize the contribution of our present organist Lenroy Skepple who was preceded by Charlesworth (Paddy) Daniel who also served as organist for the congregation for a number of years. We place on
record our appreciation to young Isola Brown who served as youth organist and rehearsed the Youth Choir before she migrated to the USA.
Freemansville has a rich heritage as an excellent singing congregation. We were blessed with excellent singers like Aramintha Jarvis (Baby Jarvis), Albertha Andrew-Burke (Aunt Liz), Agatha Lake (Mama Baby), Dalton Hughes, Joseph Colbourne (Joe Pepper), Agiana Meyers (Agie), Triphena Edna Russell (Roderick) and Caroline Mason (Dada Caro). All through the years, the church has been favoured with a vibrant Senior Choir that has served the community and nation well. Sunday afternoon half-hour programmes on Radio ZDK, Good Friday recording on ABS Television, Easter and Christmas programmes provided by the choir were all very well received. In addition to the Senior Choir that is presently directed by Jennifer Williams, we have a Youth Choir and a Children’s Choir that are both directed by Melba Brown and Junie Ruddy. Freemansville was also noted for its Singing Meeting, where a speech by Godfrey Steel was second to none.
We remember prayer warriors like Edward Duncan, Drucilla Richards, and Monteque (Monty) Sterling who have all gone on to their reward. Thanks to our band of Class Leaders who have served faithfully and well. Our longest serving class leader Nerille Browne is still leading at 87 years of age. Dalton Hughes, Hilton Smith, Edward Duncan and Oscar Thomas were numbered among our faithful offering ushers. We continue to enjoy and appreciate the contribution of Christine Lambert in organizing fund raisers, preparing the GB dancers, preparing the liturgical cloths and decorating the chapel especially for Palm Sunday and other special occasions. A special banquet in her honor was held in 2007.
We appreciate the work of the faithful late Reynold Smith who was the longest serving Society Steward. Our present Congregational Stewards are Lornette Francis, Jennifer Williams, Juliet Samuel and Cheryl Gore. Our Care Fund Stewards are Patricia Francis, Juliet Samuel, Joslyn Stevens and Melba Brown; while our Property Stewards are Thomas (Tommy) Joseph, Elwood Ashe, Hugh Martin, Hillarine Colbourne, Rhonis Donowa and Carmen Merrick. The Standing Committees are led by: Junie Ruddy (Mission and Evangelism), Hyacinth Josiah with secretary Melba Browne (Organization and Education) and Lornette Francis with secretary LaVerne Browne (Resources and Development). Melba Browne and Juliet Samuel serve as secretaries for the Congregational Council and Pastoral Council respectively.
We thank God for all our groups and organizations. We recall the Boys’ Brigade and the Young Adventurers that are now dormant. The Girls’ Brigade is functional, actively participates in worship and is captained by Lornette Francis who has been with the Girls’ Brigade since its introduction in Antigua in 1962. The Youth Fellowship which is now called Freemansville Christ Angels is led by Kevon Warner as President, Amelia Williams as Vice President and Hyacinth Josiah as its main adult mentor. The Women’s League fulfills its role and is led by Hillarine Colbourne. The men of the church though not formally a Men’s Fellowship continue to play their part. The Church School is fully functional with Melba Brown as Superintendent, and Rhonis Donawa, Hyacinth Josiah, Blendina Smith and Kevon Warner serving as teachers. Previous Church School Superintendents include Lornette Francis, Eusalyn Lewis, Lynette Nicholas, and Jose Samuel-Joseph. Our Cradle Roll Secretary is Lorna Newton. These groups have all enriched our fellowship over the years.
The annual visit to the Mental Home every New Years Day, a ministry introduced by the Rev M Peterson Joseph when he pastored the congregation, continues to be one of the outreach ministries of the congregation. The assigned pastor also serves as chaplain to the Freemansville Primary School.
We thank God for all our members who have helped to make the Freemansville Methodist Church what it is today. We remember all our shut-in members whom we visit on a regular basis. We continue to pray for those who are sick at home or disabled in one way or the other. We congratulate in a special way 100 year old Alphaeus Walter “Uncle Wally” Smith, who still comes to church and would have served as our sexton for many years. Uncle Wally is the son of another centenarian, Samuel “Papa Sammy” Smith.
We say thanks to all our ministers and their spouses who would have served in our church throughout the years. We appreciate your work among us. It is our prayer that God will bless our present Pastor Reverend Nichola-Barrett Glasgow and her husband Marcel Glasgow who have recently joined us and we trust that they will have a fruitful and rewarding ministry among us. To God be the glory!