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In Jamaica, religion is very important.  Despite the 23% of the island who identify as non-religious, Jamaica remains a society profoundly shaped by religion and shared belief.  Sectors public and private, business and social, old and, to a lesser extent, young all trace religious roots.  

 

Since the European settlement of Jamaica in 1494, the many denominations of Christianity have in their turn influenced the nature of life and death on the island.  Today, in addition to these denominations, Jamaica supports the faiths of Rastafari, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Religious Science, and more.
 
This section provides a brief outline of the history of Jamaica’s different religious groups, the current state of their affairs, contact information, and, where appropriate, links to sources of further information.  Take these links to jump to the relevant section below:
 
 
 

 

ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF JAMAICA AND THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

The Church of England established itself in Jamaica 7 years after the capture of the island by Admiral Penn and General Venables in 1655.  It is the oldest continuous religious presence on the island and has its historic centre at the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town.  The Cathedral is, itself, the oldest Anglican Church outside the British Isles.  
 
The Anglican Church as it exists today is, however, the product of many upheavals.  The church was originally under control of Government, but due to problems of iniquity and profitability, this control was released and the first Synod under new church law held in 1870.  
 
According to the 2008 Synod Handbook the church has 32,578 registered members across the following regions:  Kingston Region (7,800), Mandeville Region (7,828), Montego Bay (6,304) Eastern Jamaica (10,619).  There are 103 full time clergy, 32 Supplementary Ministers, 10 Licensed Church Workers and Church Army Officers and 1 Licensed Lay Worker.
 
The Anglican Church sponsors 79 basic schools, 26 primary and all-age schools, 11 high schools—including many of Jamaica’s oldest—and the Church’s Teachers’ College in Mandeville.  
 
The current leaders of the Anglican Church are: —

 

 

ā€‹ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

The history of the Catholic Church in Jamaica, like that of all the island’s churches, is long and rich and complicated.  The first to get here, the Catholics represent at least the longest and most complicated, and so only a short sketch is provided here.
 
Columbus dedicated the island to the Most Holy Trinity when he landed here in 1494; shortly after, the Spanish Crown gave the island as a gift to Columbus.  His son, Diego, ordered built the first Catholic Church in 1510 at St. Ann’s Bay.  
 
Following the capture of Jamaica by the British in 1655, the Catholic Church was banned from the island.  137 years later, in 1792, the church was allowed to return. 
 
The Catholic Church maintains a strong presence in the island’s education system with 3 infant schools, 21 primary schools, 21 basic schools, 12 prep schools, 6 all-age schools, 10 high schools, and the teachers’ colleges, St. Joseph’s and the Franciscan College.  
 
The current leaders of the Catholic Church are:
  • Archbishop Charles Dufour, CD

  • Bishop of Mandeville Neil Tiedemann, CD

  • Bishop of Montego Bay

The Chancery
21 Hopefield Avenue, Kingston 6, T: 927 9915, F:927 4487
 
Diocese of Mandeville
59 Main Steet, P. O. Box 8, Mandeville,T: 962 1269, F. 962 1297
 
Diocese of Montego Bay
 Fort Street, P. O. Box 197, Montego Bay, T: 952 6678, F: 952 6679
 

Useful Information Online + In Print 

“History of the Catholic Church in Jamaica,” Frank Osbourne (1988)
 

 

ISLAMIC FAITH

The first Muslims to come to Jamaica were, in all likelihood, West African slaves who brought with them their faith to the island.  Centuries of slavery, however, eroded their belief and practice causing the early Muslims to assimilate the more prominent Christianity.  The next wave of Islam came in the 19th century with the arrival of indentured labourers from India, of whom about 16% were Muslim. 
 
Today, the Islamic Faith has around 5,000 followers on the island.  There are mosques in Kingston and Spanish Town, as well as in the smaller towns of Albany and Port Maria in St. Mary, Newell in St. Elizabeth, and Three Miles River in Westmoreland.  
 
In addition, there are masjids at Santa Cruz, Morant Bay, and Negril.  There are two basic schools
 
The Islamic Council of Jamaica is the centre of the Muslim Faith in Jamaica and is located at 24 Camp Road in Kingston.  Meetings are held there every 2 months for Muslims across the country.  
 
The current leaders of the Islamic Council of Jamaica are:
  • President Mustafa Muhammad

  • Head of Education Sheikh Musa Tijani

Islamic Council of Jamaica
24 Camp Road, Kingston 4, T: 928 1771, F: 930 7756

Useful Information Online

 

 

 

JAMAICA BAPTIST UNION

The Baptist presence in Jamaica began in 1783 when George Liele, a 'free black slave' from Atlanta, Georgia, came to preach in Kingston.  Sixty-six years and much missionary work later, the Jamaica Baptist Union was founded at Falmouth, Trelawny in 1849. 
 
In the interim, three of Jamaica’s most prominent Baptist missionaries—James Philippo, Thomas Burchell, and William Knibb—founded the Calabar Theological College in Rio Bueno.  In 1868, the College moved to East Queen Street in Kingston where it grew to encompass a teacher training school and, in 1912, the boys’ high school that is well known today.  
 
Throughout the 19th century the Baptists of Jamaica were instrumental in the fight against slavery in the island.  In addition to setting up many ‘free villages,’ the Baptists counted among their number three men who, for their efforts against slavery and oppression, became National Heroes: Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, and George William Gordon.  
 
Today, in the Jamaica Baptist Union there are 322 Churches, 118 ministers and approximately 40,000 communicant members and 180,000 followers.   
 
The current officers of the Baptist Union are:  
  • President Rev. Cawley Bolt, 

  • Vice President Rev. Trevor Edwards, 

  • Vice President Rev. Luke Shaw, 

  • General Secretary Rev. Karl B. Johnson (karl.johnson@jbu.org.jm)

The Jamaica Baptist Union
2b Washington Boulevard, Kingston 20, 969 2223, 969 6268, 969 9835, f. 924 6296 info@jbu.org.jm
 
 
 

JEWISH FAITH, UNITED CONGREGATION OF ISRAELITES

The first Jews came to Jamaica from the Iberian Peninsula in the early 16th century.  They fled in search of a safer place to practice their faith, for at the time the Spanish Inquisition offered them only conversion or death.  
 
The history of the Jews in Jamaica mirrors the struggle—and often success—in the face of persecution, seen in Jewish history across the world.  Jamaican Jews were legally second-class citizens, and despite what wealth they may have acquired through business, were subject to harsher laws and taxes than the English or ‘Free-Coloured’ peoples of the island.  It was not until the 1740s that King George II did much to ameliorate the Jewish existence in the island.  
 
Historically, Jewish populations have centred in the metropolis or main commercial area.  Jamaican Jews have had temples in Spanish Town, Port Royal, and Kingston at times when each was the centre of Jamaica’s business.  
 
But the island’s Jewish people have also been extraordinary in how much of the island they have covered.  Jamaica is home to one large Synagogue, rebuilt by the Henriques brothers on Duke Street, Kingston on the cite of an older temple destroyed by the 1907 earthquake.  More importantly, 21 Jewish cemeteries stretch across the island from Lacovia and Black River in the west to the oldest such cemetery in Hunts Bay outside of Kingston. 
 
Today there are no more than 300 practicing Jews in Jamaica. That number, however, belies the many Jamaican people who trace Jewish ancestry.  
 
The United Congregation of Israelites, centred at the Shaare Shalom Synagogue, meets weekly for Sabbath at 10am.  The sermon, once Orthodox, has become progressively more Liberal-Conservatist, with reading in English and Hebrew and even a hymn sung in Spanish.   
 
The current Leaders of the United Congregation of Israelites are: — 
 
The United Congregation of Israelites
Shaare Shalom Synagogue , 92 Duke Street (corner Charles Street), Kingston, 922 5031

Useful Information Online + In Print

“Portuguese Jews of Jamaica,” Mordechai Arbell (2000)
“The Jews in Jamaica” Rebecca Tortello
 

 

 

METHODIST CHURCH IN JAMAICA

The Methodist Church began its history in Jamaica in 1789 with the arrival of Dr. Thomas Coke in Port Royal.  Coke, whose trip was almost cut lethally short by drunk and violent Kingstonians, persevered and today the Coke Memorial Chapel is named in his honour.      
 
Methodists have traditionally been, and continue to be heavily involved in education.  The Church currently supports 31 basic schools and 16 primary schools.  4 secondary schools—St. Andrew High School for Girls, Excelsior School, York Castle High School, and Morant Bay High School—are Methodist.  And finally, the church supports 2 vocational tertiary institutions. 
 
Jamaican Methodists are today part of the broader Methodists in the Caribbean and Central America (MCCA), a group headquartered in Antigua.  The Methodist District in Jamaica is divided into 27 circuits that are further divided into 172 congregations across the island.  As of the 2001 census, just over 50,000 Jamaicans identify themselves as Methodist.  
 
The current leaders of the Methodist Church are:
  • President Rev. Everald Galbraith

  • Secretary Rev. Christine Gooden-Benguche

  • Treasurer Bro. Rion Hall

 
The Jamaica Methodist District Office
143 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 8, PO Box 892, 924 1218, 925 6768, 925 4290, f. 924 2560

Useful Information Online + In Print 

“The Problem of Freedom,” Thomas C. Holt (1992)
“Wesleyan-Methodist Missions in Jamaica and Honduras,” Rev. Peter Samuel (1850)
 

 

 

NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH OF GOD

The New Testament Church of God is one of Jamaica’s larger Pentecostal churches.  It is independent of the United Pentecostal Church.  
 
The church was born of the wider evangelical movement that took place in the early 20th century on the island.  Its founding occurred in 1917 when J. Wilson Bell, a local Kingston preacher, established a relationship with the Church of God headquarters in the southern American state of Tennessee.  
 
The early church spread from throughout Kingston and, by 1922, had reached the parishes of St. Catherine and Clarendon.  Church leaders were sourced, like missionaries, from the Church of God community abroad. 
 
Since 1974, however, all 8 Administrative Bishops of the Church of God have been Jamaican.  Under their leadership the church has swelled to its present size of 344 church communities divided into 68 separate administrative districts.  These churches represent a registered membership of over 80,000 with a following of more than twice that number.       
 
The church supports 57 basic schools across the island.  In association with HEART/National Trust Association, the Church of God helps run 3 vocational training centres in Johns Hall in St. James, Spaldings in Manchester, and Middle Quarters in St. Elizabeth.   
 
The current leaders of the Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are: —
 
The New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
8 Fairway Avenue, Kingston 5,  927 7767, 927 3712, 978 4058, f. 978 2673

Useful Information Online + In Print

Church website contains history and current event updates. 
 

 

 

TEMPLE OF LIGHT CHURCH OF RELIGIOUS SCIENCE

The Temple of Light was founded in 1981 by Senior Minister, Dr. Elma Lumsden.  The church is a part of the wider International Centers for Spiritual Living, a religious science movement founded by Dr. Kenn Gordon in British Columbia, Canada.  
 
The non-denominational church is headquartered in Kingston on Fairway Avenue.  Its teachings are equal parts religion and life philosophy and focus on the relationship of the individual with the universe around him or her. 
 
“Science of Mind” is the guiding concept of the Temple of Light’s ideological system.  The International Center for Spiritual Living, on their website, describes this concept as “a system of mental and spiritual principles, combined with a technique for the application of these principles. It is designed to live and expand consciousness in ways that lead to an even higher order of livingness. It emphasizes the spiritual connection of all, thus promoting peace and greater harmony at all levels of experience.” 
 
Over the past three decades the Temple of Light in Jamaica has grown, but still remains one of the island’s smaller more unique places of worship.  
 
The current leaders of the Temple of Light are: 
  • Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Elma Lumsden

  • Pastor Rev. John Scott

Temple of Light Church of Religious Science
6 Fairway Avenue, Kingston 10, 927 6145, 946 2230, f. 946 2231, templeoflight@cwjamaica.com 

Useful Information Online + In Print 

 

 

 

THE CHURCH OF GOD IN JAMAICA

The Church of God—not to be confused with the New Testament Church of God—is a Jamaican church founded by the missionary couple the Rev. George and Mrs. Nellie Olson in 1907. 
 
The Olsons came to Jamaica from Anderson, Indiana USA, home of the Church of God worldwide.  The church, like other Churches of God, is a holiness Christian body and, strictly speaking, is non-denominational.  Unlike the others, however, The Church of God is not a Pentecostal church.  
 
In 1927, Mrs. Olson began a school on High Holborn Street in Kingston.  With the funding of the church, the small school was relocated 2 years later and the Ardenne School created.  The school remains one of the island’s primier high schools. 
 
Today there are 114 churches divided among 6 regions, each under the administration of a reverend chairman.  In addition to the high school, the church also maintains a leadership training institute on Brumalia Road in Mandeville.  
 
The current leaders of the Church of God in Jamaica are: —
The Church of God in Jamaica
35 Hope Road, Kingston 10, 968 5990, 968 7644, f. 968 7905

Useful Information Online + In Print

Church Website, current event updates, links to affiliated organizations
Ardenne High School website, history of the church and school
 

 

 

THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

On Labour Day, the 26th May, 1971, the first Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded in Jamaica.  The church is, however, a part of one of the oldest extant denominations of Christianity in the world.  
 
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, centred in Addis Ababa, is an ancient sect of eastern orthodox Christianity, not to be confused either with the Coptic Christians of North Africa, or the Rastafarian Faith of Jamaica and the Caribbean.  
 
On a local level, the Jamaican Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a member of the Jamaican council of Churches.  Regionally, the church belongs to the Caribbean Conference of Churches, and internationally, the church is a founding member of the World Council of Churches.  The church worldwide meets twice a year to be governed by Holy Synod in Addis Ababa. 
 
The seat of the Archbishop of the Region is in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.  The Church in Jamaica is headquartered at 2 Queenborough Drive, Kingston.  There are also churches in Ocho Rios and Savanna-la-Mar.  
 
The current leaders of the Jamaican Ethiopian Orthodox Church are:
 
Ethiopian Orthodox Church
19 Queensborough Drive, Kingston 19, 931 1026

Useful Information In Print

“The Panorma,” The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (1971)
 
 
 

THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Moravian Church, or the Unitas Fratum, is an ancient Protestant denomination that predates Martin Luther.  The Moravians came to Jamaica in 1754 and pioneered the primary education of the island’s people.  
 
The Moravians historically been concerned more with Jamaica’s western parishes; Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, and Manchester constitute its Western, Central, and Eastern districts, respectively.  
 
The Church, like many of the earlier protestant denominations, played a key role in the setting up of ‘free villages’ for former slaves after Emancipation.  Moravian ‘free villages’ were found at Maidstone, near Nazareth, Manchester and at Beeston Spring and Beaufort near Darliston, Westmoreland. 
 
During the 20th century, the Moravians expanded eastward, creating a Surrey district, containing 5 churches and their Provincial offices at 3 Hector Street, Kingston.  
 
The Church, which continues to be active in education, oversees over 50 schools and maintains the Bethlehem Moravian College at Malvern, St. Elizabeth.
 
Today, in addition to the 5 churches in Surrey, there are 53 Moravian churches spread across the remaining three districts, one at Covenant on Grand Cayman, and two—Belen and Christ King—in Cuba.       
 
The current leaders of the Moravian Church are: — 

 

The Moravian Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
3 Hector Street, Kingston 5, 938 1588, 928 1861, f. 928 8336

Useful Information Online + In Print 

jamaicanmoravian.org — announcements, history, list of churches
“The Seed Time and Harvest,”  S. U. Hastings and B. L. MacLeavy, 1979
On Moravians in Jamaica by Jamaican Moravians.
“The Moravians in Jamaica” J. H. Buchner, 1854
 

The Seventh Day Adventist Church, which received its name at a general conference of ministers in Battle Creek, Michigan in the United States, in October 1860, today has 16 million members in 203 countries.

The name Seventh Day Adventists is symbolic of the Fourth Commandment outlined in the book of Exodus to commemorate the Sabbath Day and in an acknowledgement of faith in the Second Advent of Jesus, or the Second Coming.

Today, this movement operates the largest Protestant network of schools and hospitals worldwide.

The arrival of the first Adventist missionaries to Jamaica was orchestrated by Margaret Harrison of Battle Creek Michigan in the United States, who is said to be the first Adventist in Jamaica.

She was joined Pastor A.J. Haysmer and his wife, on May 26, 1893.

The missionaries were able to host a meeting of workers in the West Indies from November 5 to 15, 1898 at Text Lane, in Kingston, Jamaica.

By February 1899, there were six organised churches and 15 other congregations, with a total of 502 members and about 100 other Sabbath-keepers.

The records show that by May, 1902, this number had grown to18 churches and 13 other congregations.

In 1903, it became clear that Jamaica had become the centre of Adventist activities in the Caribbean basin and at its 35th meeting in Oakland, California, in March of that year, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to receive the Jamaica Conference into the association.

Today there are 250,000 Seventh-day Adventists in Jamaica worshipping in more than 650 congregations.

In the building of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, education and health were essential planks.

It operates institutions such as the Andrews Memorial Hospital, Northern Caribbean University and the Book and Nutrition Centre, along with seven high schools and 17 preparatory schools.

The 117-year-old North Street Seventh-day Adventist is Jamaica’s first Adventist church.

Current leaders of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists:

  • Pastor Everett Brown

 

Seventh-day Adventist Churches  of the West Indies Union Conference

27 Hope Road, Kingston 10, St. Andrew


Useful information online

“The West Indies Union Conference - More than a century of extraordinary stewardship” on the Seventh Day Adventists Church Jamaica Union Conference

http://www.jmunion.org/aboutus/history.aspx