BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MAY PEN NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH OF GOD
St. Matthew 16:18 states
“………you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
When one steps onto the compound of 57 Manchester Avenue, what is the first thing that “grabs” one’s attention? Is it the spacious paved parking lot? Is it the large building with the French windows and a fairly large interior with a balcony? Is it the Early Childhood building or the former Church manse which is next to it? Well, whatever it is, you are blessed to see the result after many years of challenges, struggles and sacrifices. You are witnessing the results of what occurs when persons make a commitment for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Let us look at where the church began,
Evangelist Nicholas Bolton who hails from Aenon Town, Clarendon, was a renowned Evangelist in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He, along with Brother Carlton Haynes from Waterlane, Clarendon, effectively preached out the Waterlane New Testament Church of God. It was the Waterlane Church which was instrumental in the ‘planting’ of the May Pen Church.
Perhaps it was due to his skill as a mason why Evangelist N. Bolton was ‘sent alone’ to erect a temporary building at May Pen. At that time, the New Testament Church of God Headquarters was at Beeston Street, Kingston, and the Administrative Bishop was Bishop A. W. Brummett. Evangelist Bolton refused to erect the temporary building which was referred to as a ‘trashy mini’ during those days. A ‘trashy mini’ was a small bamboo, thatched-roof structure used as a church. Evangelist Bolton consented to go if he was given a tent. The tent was bought using money collected during a convention, and the May Pen Church was born.
Deacon Rupert Dawes, one of May Pen’s earliest members recalls what became of the tent. He stated that the members of the Church went to a District Convention at Kellits, Clarendon in 1951, and when they returned, the tent had been torn down. Why? Hurricane Charlie had ‘swept through’ the Caribbean and as a result of this, there was no place to worship. Fortunately, a Bro. Lloyd from the Church gave lumber from his property, and this was used with the remnant from the tent to make a place for worship. The first baptism was at Denbigh Crescent. Brother R. Dawes was baptised on Sunday November 18, 1951.
Shortly after, a gentleman named Mr. Brooks was selling lots of land within the area. Through self-denial, the members of the Church were able to purchase a lot at 4a Harris Street for seventy pounds sterling. A temporary place of worship was constructed after permission was obtained from Mr. Thorne, The Superintendent of the Parish Council at that time. He also gave the Church a plan to be on the ‘safe side.’ Evangelist N. Bolton was the person who dialogued with The Parish Council at that time since he was an employee.
The new ‘building’ consisted of a bamboo structure with coconut bough roof, slab and bamboo seats, and a dirt floor. Due to the fact that Evangelist N. Bolton had been sent to Guantanamo Bay, Brother R. Dawes was asked to lead the church in his absence. At that time, Elder Haurding Harris was County Overseer, and assisted the Church when possible. Elder Amphaniah Savery, the Pastor for the Shingle Hut New Testament Church, was overseeing the Church during this period. He also initiated an ‘outreach’ at Savannah Cross, after being asked to take over a ‘church’ which was being ‘run’ by a gentleman named Deacon Swaby. When the church was formalized, one of the first persons to be saved and baptised was Sister Valda Prince. That church is now Palmer’s Cross New Testament Church of God.
After a few years, the opportunity arose for the church to be relocated to a more favourable spot. This is where it is now. This should have pleased the residents of Harris Street who complained about the noise nuisance.
The lot of land which was eventually sold to the church was formerly leased by Mrs. Elizabeth Francis for planting vegetables. However, the owner, Ms Annie Carty was contacted by her sister, Ms Grant, on behalf of the church. The land was bought for one thousand pounds.
The brethren made do with a temporary structure made of zinc with bamboo seats for a while. Then, it was time for a permanent structure to be constructed!
One incident which is recalled by some of the early members occurred after the excavation of the new church began. The island experienced severe weather conditions and everything was covered with water. Some of the Sisters put on their water boots and bailed out the water without hesitation. They were also able to assist with other areas of the work. After the foundation was dug and cast, the only way was ‘up’ for the May Pen Church. Mr. Sharpe from the Citrus Company of Jamaica gave the church pieces of iron to make the roof. This was between 1963 - 1964.
Sister Lorna Lewis, one of the early members of the church, stated that prayer meetings were instrumental in the growth of the early church.
The physical structure of the church has been extended since the first building, and the congregation has increased in size. We are grateful for the men and women of old, who got the vision, ran with it, and have implemented the plan. It is now our duty to cherish and protect the legacy as we move forward, determined to extend the Kingdom of God.
Ministers who have laboured in the vineyard at May Pen New Testament Church of God
(In order of service from 1951)
The Church Planters
Evangelist/Pastor Nicholas Bolton (& Brother Carlton Haynes)
Elder Amphaniah Savery
Elder Joel Walters
Elder Haurding Harris
Elder Alanzo Palmer – The first permanent Minister.
Elder Samuel O. Barrett
Elder Arthur W. Carr
Elder Gladstone O. Hazel
Elder Allan J. Whittaker – ‘Ball A Fire’
Rev. Arthur A. Cockett
Elder G. O. Hazel
Rev. Joseph Mitchell
Rev. S. O. Taylor
Bishop Ralston Graham
Bishop James Small- September 2020
NB. Bishop Ralston Graham was the longest serving Minister – September 2001 – August 2020.
He had two Associate Ministers during his time.
Bishop Rohan Ambersley Sept. 2007- August 2018
Bishop Richard Young March 2019 - June 2020
Special thanks to the following persons who helped me to garner the information for this article.
Deacon Sydney Nugent - Waterlane N.T. C. O. G
Sis Valda Prince - Palmer’s Cross N. T.C.O.G
Rev. Iris Stewart- Simpson - Blue Mountain N.T.C.O.G.
Bro. Daniel Campbell - May Pen N.T.C.O.G
Sis Lorna Lewis - May Pen N.T.C.O.G
Spirit Filled Life Bible – NKJV
History of The May Pen New Testament Church Of God – Prepared by: R.A. Campbell & D. Campbell January 1999
Prepared by K. Fearon