Cayman Islands Conference
The History of Adventism in the Cayman Islands and the Establishment of the East End Church
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bonacca, Honduras was established in 1892. Preachers came from the United States of America to share the biblical truths of the Seventh-day Adventist Church – a message of hope for a dying world. The word of God came alive to the people who heard and many were accepting these Bible-based messages and being converted. It was on Bonacca where the Cayman Islands’ story of Adventism begins. Let us take a walk into history as told by Elder Will Jackson, the Cultural Ambassador for the Cayman Islands, and some of the long-standing members of the East End Church: Sister Dorinda Greene, Sister Cynthia Scott, Sister Barbara Welcome, and Brother Winston Bodden.
In the year 1894, a strange thing happened in the district of East End. Something no one had ever seen or heard. Someone keeping Saturday as God’s Holy day, instead of Sunday. Nevertheless, along came a native with a burning desire to share this very truth.
In 1894, our illustrious pioneer, a young sea captain of East End, Mr. Gilbert McLaughlin, while in Bonacca Honduras, out of curiosity, one night stopped at a wayside meeting to listen to a message by a preacher from America. Although Captain Gilbert McLaughlin was, himself, a churchman, he heard something new. The Captain’s interest was stirred; not so much with what the preacher was saying but with what he was reading from the Holy Bible. The next night he returned to the meeting, and he continued to attend until he was fully convinced, in his heart, that what the preacher was preaching was indeed the word of God. He accepted the new Biblical Truths, including that the 7th day Sabbath, and was baptised. He was convinced that the 7th day Sabbath of the Bible was his binding duty to observe and not Sunday. Like Saul of Tarsus, Captain Gilbert felt called to take this new found message, from God to his people in the Cayman Islands, who had never heard such truths revealed. He returned home and exchanged his navigational instruments for God’s chart of salvation. His great task now would be to share with family and friends the “THUS SAITH THE LORD”!
This task he had undertaken was not an easy one. For those old settlers revered Sunday to the highest esteem, and woeful curses were called down on anyone who dared to publicly violate the “sanctity” of Sunday. Even his beloved wife Rachel railed on him for his foolish ideas. In her words “Whatever has caused you to join this crazy religion I will never understand. We will be the laughing stock of East End and of the whole island; but let me make one thing positively clear to you now, I want no part of your foolish religion and will have nothing to do with it! Oh, and another thing, please don’t let the neighbours see you working outside this house on Sundays!”
Thanks be to God, Brother Gilbert didn’t listen to his wife, Rachel. He lovingly apologised to her and taking his axe and machete he walked through the entire length of East End every Sunday morning so everyone could see that he was no longer observing that day as God’s Holy day. Back then, to be called an Adventist, one could be hated by his mother. Although not having any encouragement, even in his own home, single-handedly, he gathered materials and built the framework for a tabernacle to worship the Great Creator whom he had come to love dearly.
His daughter Beaulah says ‘he had gathered logs, without letting her mother know, to build the house of worship’. Sabbath School and other services were being held in his living room. As interest grew so did the numbers, and when they reached a dozen worshipers a larger place was needed in which to worship. Brother Gilbert then purchased a piece of land on which to build God’s house. The first church was built on this very land that our present church stands today. Truly God was leading; for the work that Captain McLaughlin began, 125 years ago, continues today. This present sanctuary is the fourth edifice dedicated to God on this spot; the piece of land purchased by our courageous and bold pioneer.
Brother Gilbert led the work for 11 years without the assistance of a minister. In response to his several requests to Jamaica, in 1905, Pastor Frank Hall was sent to the Cayman Islands to assist this growing group of believers. Pastor Hall preached the word with great power, and because of Brother Gilbert’s dedicated efforts over the years, 20 precious souls were baptised; thus starting the first company of Adventists in these islands, to the honour and glory of God. Brother Gilbert’s dear wife, Rachel, and their five children were among the group. Behind the scenes Rachel was listening to the Bible studies going on in their home, and slowly the Holy Spirit was convicting her of the truth. On the day of the baptism she stepped forward. This was a great surprise for Brother McLaughlin. After her baptism she joined him and became a committed and diligent worker in the vineyard of the Lord. Like Joshua, he and his house were now serving the Lord. Also among the new believers were two stalwart men on which Brother Gilbert could depend; Brother Theophilius Bodden and Brother Selbine Watler; one a Church Elder and the other a Deacon. From this nucleus of believers, a seed was also sown in George Town, which became a great centre of Adventism in these Cayman Islands. This was the second Adventist company to be established in these islands.
CAPTAIN GILBERT’S HERITAGE
The Children of Captain Gilbert and his wife Rachel are also a part of this rich heritage. This is a summary of the children and their offspring.
Allen – Was sent, by his parents, to study in Jamaica. He became an Educator. Today, the East End Civic Centre is named in his honour. The Premier of the Cayman Islands, Honourable Alden McLaughlin, is the great-grandson of Captain Gilbert.
Hephzibah – Married Joseph McLean and both of them served with Captain Gilbert in the new church. Brother Joseph served as an elder. Joseph and Hephzibah had four Children: Macford, Lurlene, Barbara, and Glenn. For many years his grandson, Macford, served as Deacon and Elder in the East End Church. Today, Lurlene’s son, Alfred McLean serves as an Elder in the East End church. Lurlene is a retired Master Guide and Division Leader. Barbara is a retired Master Guide, Deaconess and Community Services worker. Glenn is an elder and serves in the Bodden Town Church. Pioneer Master Guides for East End Church is Macford, Barbara, Lurlene, McDorn Frederick, and Dorinda Greene. They were invested by the Comms in the 1950s.
Pearlyn – Married Benjamin Allen and they moved to Honduras to live. Their son George Allen, our very own dear Elder, is still working for the Lord at 92 years of age. To God, be all the glory! Following in his footsteps and serving the Lord is his only daughter Carol Best-Gould and her daughter Ciara Best, a doctor at the Government Hospital.
Beaulah – Never married but devoted herself to caring for mothers over the entire island as a midwife and registered nurse.
Echard – Served as a Deacon until his health failed.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BUILDING
The first little church was destroyed by a hurricane. It was replaced by a thatched booth which was carpeted with clean white sand. Here the newly formed church worshipped. In 1930, Pastor I.G. Knight, from the United States, (first president of the Cayman Islands Mission) set to work building a lumber edifice, which he called “the little brown church in the vale”. Although the building was not very sturdy, it withstood the great hurricane of 1932. In the 1940s, the members constructed a more modern place of worship; which served for more than 30 years. As the company of believers increased the need arose for a bigger edifice; so a beautiful, more spacious building was erected.
To celebrate our 100th anniversary, a monument was erected in front of the porch on which to place the plaque commemorating the event. The then General Conference president, Robert Folkenberg, unveiled the plaque at the celebration. For this celebration a heritage song was written by Sis. Dorinda Greene entitled, “Church By the Blue Sea”, which has been used for most of our homecoming programs ever since. It is sung to the tune of “The Church in the Wildwood”.
Church by the Blue Sea
There’s a church in East End by the blue sea,
no lovelier spot in East End.
No place is so dear to my childhood,
as the SDA church in East End.
Chorus O come, come, come, come,
come to the church by the blue sea,
Oh, come to the church in East End.
It was here Adventism started,
O come to the church in East End.
O come to the church by the blue sea,
to the church where the sea billows roll.
Where the saints thrill their souls with the singing,
from the birth of SDA in East End.
How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning,
as Gilbert McLaughlin did preach.
His voice so sweetly called them,
to come to the Adventist church.
In 2019 the membership of East End Church is 254. In 2002, when Pastor Al Powell, a young, dynamic, Caymanian pastor, came to East End, he made a huge impact on the district. The Membership was at 90, but, by the time he left, at the end of 2003, membership had increased to 141. To facilitate this growth, additional restrooms, a mother’s room and a place of study for the pastor were needed. Under the leadership of Pastor Al Powell, all hands got to work to make this happen, and the ground-breaking ceremony was set for May 19, 2002. A community member, Mr. Brazley McLain, donated his time and backhoe to dig the trenches for the extension of the church. Special windows were also donated by Brother Osgood and Sister Linda Christian in memory of Sister Ida Welcome, Sister Linda’s mother, and Sister Verne Forbes. Brother Roy Bodden and Sister Ada Terry also donated one window in memory of their parents, Theophilius and Clardena Bodden. After the improved building, there was a rededication service held on November 16, 2003. For this special celebration Pastor Noel Frazer, former president of West Indies Union, was the special guest speaker.
2004 began with a new Pastor for the East End Church, Pastor Wesley Nyack and family. Before the church could get adjusted to them the great destroyer, Hurricane Ivan, came and caused massive damage to the hall and the sanctuary. In spite of all the damage, God be praised; it did not damage the valuable Persian rug, picture of the Lord’s supper, donated to the church by Elder George Allen. God provided for us while we were in that “No electricity, carpet and proper seating period”. Brother Tennyson McFarlane donated a generator to the church so services could be held at night. Elder George Allen saw to the rebuilding of the hall. Elder Philip Bodden donated time and supplies which assisted in the repairs so that the church was fully functional in a few months.
SOME OF THE FAITHFUL WORKERS OVER THE YEARS (PAST AND PRESENT)
Time and space would not permit singularly naming out the many who took part in the erection of this building, but thanks and gratitude arise from our hearts for every person who contributed to the construction and beautifying of this building. Whether by prayers, hard labour, donations or whatever else you might have done, we say thanks.
In a special way, though, we want to remember Brother Theophilius Bodden, now resting in Jesus, (the very First Elder of this church), his wife Clardena and their four children: Roy, Stead, Audrey and Ada and Brother Selbine Watler, some of the founding members, who kept the work going, for long periods, when there were no overseas workers. Thank God, from time to time, workers came to assist. One of them was Sister Lorianna Jeffers – She held posts such as Treasurer, Dorcas Leader, Superintendent and Church Clerk. Her grandson, Elder John Wesley, presently serves as Chief Financial Officer of our Conference.
Today the work goes on with Elder Theophilius’s grandson, Brother Winston Bodden, serving as Elder and great grand-son Brother Philip Bodden who served as a church Elder. Sister Ada Terry served in many areas of the church and today her daughter Harriette McLaughlin is still a faithful member. Other great-grandchildren are Sharon and Samantha at East End, Tammy and Susan at Newlands and Ken at North Side.
Other members who worked diligently were: Varion and Cicely Pierson as Deacon and Deaconess. Their son, the Honourable Linford Pierson, is now the First Elder in the George Town Church; Wymon and Venida Gourzong, Deacon and Deaconess; their son Stanley attends George Town Church and daughter Dorinda Greene serving in the East End Church. Dorinda’s son, Dorin serves in the Bodden Town Church. Eddison Scott served many years as First Elder and his sons Leonard and Benjamin accepted the message. Clarenton, another son of his, attends the North Side Church. His daughters Roselyn and Alida are at East End Church. Great granddaughters Dierdre Jamieson And Sonya Scott-Rigby have served in many areas in this church, along with their mother, Cynthia Scott. Hazel Scott, his daughter-in-law, served as Deaconess, Division Leader and Dorcas leader. Osgood and Linda Christian are still serving in many areas, and their son Balfour served as Elder for many years. Lesandrow and Sylvia Frederick and their children McDorn and Verneal and grandson McCleary have also given service to the church. McDorn and Hazel (Nancy) served as Pathfinder and Master Guide Leaders. Verneal served as Elder in North Side. McCleary is our favourite harmonica player and served for many years as our Communications Leader. We can also thank him for assisting with our sound system and the nice area for the system. He was awarded for being an outstanding Hazard Manager for the region.
Today we are celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Adventism in the Cayman Islands. For this celebration, the East End Church building has been given a facelift. A paint job and new fixtures. New TVS to assist with the presentation of the word and a rail for the platform. Thank God for all His wondrous blessing on us. May we continue to serve diligently so that when we meet with Elder Gilbert in the kingdom of heaven we can shake his hand and say “Thank you for carrying the message of salvation. We are those who have kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”! Glory Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!!
We express gratitude to all past and present pastors, workers and laymen who have contributed to the growth and development of the work of Adventism in the Cayman Islands over these 125 years. Some of them are:
Levy S. Connolly
Albert L. Lyle
Michael A. Smith 1984 – 88
Ted Hunter 1989 – 1991
Franklin M. Grant (1992 – 95)
Caple Thompson (1996 – 2001)
Al R. Powell (2002 – 03)
Wesley Nyack (2004 – 11)
Ivor Harry (2011 – 12)
Reinaldo Dracket (2012 – 14)
Vaughan Henry (2015 – 17)
Shion O’Connor (June-Aug 2017)
Kevin Danvers (Aug 2017 –present)
Presidents who served in our Mission/Conference from Sept 1946 – Present.
K. S. Crofoot
Orville V. Schneider
B. E. Hurst
George I. Gantz
Levy H. Connolly
Albert L. Lyle
L. V. McMillan
Trevor W. Thompson
Neville E. Scavella
Jeffrey K. Thompson
D. Eric Clarke
The church is more than a social phenomenon. It is more than a group of men and women with common interests. It represents God’s activity in grateful acquiescence and willing obedience. Because the church represents God’s activity, it is based on firm foundations. But it does walk on human feet. And so its many critics never run out of flaws to condemn. However, the church still survives. It is not an outdated institution of bygone era to be laid aside in a world that has come of age. Like lighthouses, the church remains a necessity in this dark world.
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS HISTORY
- Brother Will Jackson (from archives)
- Sister Dorinda Greene
- Sister Barbara Welcome
- Brother Winston Bodden
- Sister Cynthia Scott
- Sister Nelda Rose Dracket