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Brotherly Love – Our beginnings

Early in 1973, under the leadership of Pastor J. C. Shillingford, the members of the City Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in St. Thomas, requested permission from the then East Caribbean Conference of SDAs to conduct an island-wide crusade. Permission was granted, and the members proceeded to implement this plan. The church members were organized into groups, and for six weeks, they visited the homes of residents throughout the island. They studied a series of lessons, participated in discussions, and led men and women to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. At about the fourth week, City Church invited those studying the lessons to attend a series of meetings with Pastor K. S. Wiggins as the evangelist. These meetings took place at what was then the St. Thomas Race Track; it is now the site of the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital.

In preparation for this crusade, members formed various committees, such as Transportation, Ushers, Music, Medical Emergency, etc. One Sunday night in August of 1973, big yellow school buses made their stops on nearly every Bus Stop in St. Thomas to transport those who had accepted the invitation to attend the “Gigantic Crusade”.

Even as the buses entered the site, streams of pedestrians from the neighboring housing project and the surrounding areas interrupted the flow of traffic. This continues night after night, for as Pastor Wiggins expounded the Word of God, many in attendance declared: “Never has a man spoken like this before.”

The Crusade ended with a total of 277 persons baptized. These were the believers who formed the nucleus of the Company who called themselves PHILADELPHIA- The Church of Brotherly Love.

The song service period each night was filled with joyous singing, especially when it came to the congregation’s favorite song: “It’s Bubbling”. Then the mood would change as hearts were prepared for the message, with the use of the song: “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light”.

Pastor Wiggins’ messages were well received, and on October 20, 1973 at about 3:00 p.m., hundreds assembled at the site of the Crusade, for on that day 201 precious souls made their decision to follow Jesus into the watery grave of baptism. As they proceeded, many lifted their voices in encouragement by singing “Take me to the water to be baptized”. Those who were not prepared for the first baptism, seized the opportunity on the following Sabbath, October 27; when another 52 souls were baptized. It was on this Sabbath day that Pastor Wiggins asked everyone present to join him as he gave special thanks to God for blessing his ministry with baptized souls. This was not the end of the baptismal services, though; for on Sabbath November 3, 24 more souls decided to demonstrate their desire to go with the Lord when He takes His redeemed home, through the act of baptism. To culminate this grand celebration, over 200 graduates received certificates for completing the Happy Living Bible Course.

The Crusade ended with a total of 277 persons baptized. These were the believers who formed the nucleus of the Company who called themselves PHILADELPHIA- The Church of Brotherly Love. The voting process to organize as a Company was done by Brothers James Tatem and Eugene Berg, along with Sister Valerie Isaac. The City Church continued to rally behind the work by assigning members to “shepherd the flock”. They served in the following Capacities? Br. Charles Rogers, Head Elder; Br. Eugene Berg, Elder; Br. Maurice Andrews, (now Pastor Andrews), Lay Activities Leader; Br. James Tatem, Head Deacon; Sis. Valerie Isaac, Head Deaconess; Sisters Claris Roper and Carmen Lake, along with Br. Linton Lake, Sabbath School Superintendents; Sis. Irene Donovan, Sabbath School Secretary; Sis. Eileen Rogers, A.Y. Leader – assisted by Br. Carl Barclay; Br. Ronald Lake(then treasurer for City Church) was responsible for the Treasury Department, and Br. Theodore Webb was selected from among the newly baptized believers to serve as Pathfinder Director.

Due to the lack of space at the City SDA Church, the Company of believers conducted weekly worship services at the cafeteria of the SDA School for a short period of time. We later relocated to the Dutch Reform Church where we paid a monthly rental to use the church for specific periods of time: Two hours on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, three and one half hours on Sabbath mornings and three hours on Sabbath afternoons.

Pastor Campbell Rogers, the intern in the island, under the supervision of Pastor J.C. Shillingford, ministered to the believers until February 23, 1974 when Pastor Ives McArthur Roberts arrived. During this same year, this land was purchased for $67,000- a sum that at that time seemed to be very large.

Pastor Roberts also requested permission to conduct a crusade and ordered a large tent with chairs to do so. The large, brown ‘Canvas Cathedral’ arrived along with the chairs and we pitched it on the newly purchased land. God blessed our efforts in a mighty way, and as result, Pastor Roberts baptized many more souls.

Before long, we moved to this Raphune Hill site, and while worshipping under the ‘Canvas Cathedral’, we started construction on the first phase of this church building. This seemed to be an impossible task, for the hillside land with its rocky terrain was filled with cacti, but many of the faithful members gave much of their time and finances to enhance the work.

This group of believers did not cease to progress, for in December 1974, we requested church organization, and on June 11, 1975, the company was officially organized as a church. We were determined to hasten the completion of the church building, and in October 1977, our hearts were filled with joy as we celebrated our fourth anniversary and dedicated the first phase of the church building. Pastor Roberts remained with us until August 1980.

Pastor Lynford Williams (then Pastor for City and Shiloh Churches) assisted us with pastoral duties until 1981 when Pastor Belgrove N. Josiah arrived; he served from 1981-1982, when he was called to serve as President of the North Caribbean Conference. Then came Pastor Samuel Joseph who served from 1982 – 1985. He was followed by Pastor Glanville Allen, who arrived in January 1986.

The warmth of our brotherly love has attracted members from various parts of the world, who have joined us and remained… today the membership of our church is 943 and growing.

Under the leadership of these God-fearing men, and the chief architect, Mr. Pedro Lopez, we continued to construct this church while growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Very early in 1986, Pastor Allen challenged us to complete the church building. We received much help from the members of the City and Shiloh Churches, and in November 1986, we dedicated our sanctuary to the honor and glory of God. Pastor Allen remained with us until mid 1987.

Pastor Peter S. N. Aaron joined us in October 1987; he remained with us until August 1991 when he was called to his present position as Director of Lay Activities and Sabbath School Departments for the North Caribbean Conference. Pastor Maxwell Webster arrived in September 1991; he remained with us until July 1994, and then pastor Winston Richards joined us in September 1994. He remained with us until 1999, and our present pastor, Pastor Ammaran Williams joined us in February 1999. Under the tutelage of some of these men of God, two intern pastors were prepared to assume leadership. These were Alex Abednego and Hesketh Matthew.

The warmth of our brotherly love has attracted members from various parts of the world, who have joined us and remained. We are indeed grateful to God for them; they too have contributed greatly in labors of love. Today the membership of our church is 943 and growing.

Our members continue to take this gospel message to all areas of St. Thomas through various organized groups, including, the Eager Beavers, Adventurers, Pathfinders, Adventist Youth, Prison Ministries and Community Services, to name a few.

We desire to shine the light of Adventism brightly and share Brotherly Love to one another, as we look forward to the glorious return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Originally written by:

Sister Mavis Pemberton

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