HISTORY OF METHODISM IN ANTIGUA
A Collective Effort Incorporating the Research and Works by Lucilla Benjamin, Daisy Messiah, Hyacinth Josiah and others.
All accounts are agreed that 250 years ago in 1760, Nathaniel Gilbert introduced Methodism in Antigua. According to Dr Thomas Coke, “in 1760 Nathaniel Gilbert publicly preached the Gospel to the slaves.” This Nathaniel Gilbert did from the back steps of his great house at Gilbert Estate located on the northeastern corner of Antigua. Antigua’s claim to fame in the story of Methodism may be further linked to the fact that outside the British Isles, Antigua was the FIRST TERRITORY in the world to which Methodism was introduced.
In properly locating our history, let us travel back in time to the years of the 1700’s. The years of the 1700’s saw the rule of “King Sugar” in the Caribbean. All life and activity in the islands revolved around the cultivation, production and distribution of this commodity. The sugarcane was grown on plantations that were owned by Englishmen who, in many cases, were absentee landlords. Working on these plantations were Negro men and women who had been captured in their native Africa and sold as slaves to the plantation owners to work in the cane fields.
Organized religion in the Caribbean was solely vested in the Church of England that came with the planters and the Church of Scotland that came with the buccaneers and catered to the needs of those groups. Religion for the slaves was unheard of at that time. The slaves were expected to take their masters to church and then retire a safe distance from the church as they waited to take their masters home at the end of the church service. That Methodism came to be introduced in a context such as this was as a result of nothing but the divine providence of our God.