The St. James Methodist Church in Hope Town has an interesting history which encompasses many struggles. The current building is the fourth on the site. The first St. James Chapel was built in 1820 and served as the Sunday Chapel as well as a ‘Sabbath Day Methodist School’ where reading and writing were taught.
This first chapel, built of three foot thick limestone blocks, was destroyed by the Great Hurricane of 1932. In 1933 a new ‘hurricane resistant’ church was built of poured concrete with reinforced steel but in 1970 it was deemed to be no longer safe and was subsequently torn down with the assistance of dynamite and heavy equipment.
A third St. James Church was built in 1970 of timber but was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1984. During the following four and a half year period while a new building was being designed and funds raised, the weekly St. James services were held in the Mission House Building.
The cornerstone for the current (and fourth) St. James Church building was laid on February 17, 1988 and the church was dedicated and opened on February 26 the following year. The laying of this cornerstone 25 years ago was celebrated in a special memorial service at the church on February 17 this year. People from all of the Methodist Churches on Abaco joined with the congregation of St. James to honour this special occasion.
The Rev. Christopher Neely, President of The Bahamas Conference of Methodist Churches, preached a very powerful sermon in which he challenged the congregation to consider how much of their time and money they give to God. He commented that while people add a percentage of 15% or more onto a restaurant bill, pay a high percentage interest on their credit card and interest to the bank on their mortgage among other things yet they are loath to give 10% to God in tithes. Also, they spend many hours a week in front of the television or reading the newspaper or a novel but how much time do they spend honouring God and reading the Bible.
Worship Leaders for this service were Rev. J. Marie Neilly and C. Vernon Malone. It was a joyful service of thanksgiving not only for the past 25 of years of service to God and the community in the current church building but also for God’s goodness in providing a Methodist Church in Hope Town for the past 193 years.
Many church members, visitors and groups participated in the service. Several musical selections were presented by the St. James Singers, Praise Band, Ocarinas and organist, Rosemary Johnson and greetings were brought by visiting ministers. A building history was presented by Vernon Malone.
Following the service the Rev. Marie Neilly, Minister of the St. James Church, stated; “The Methodist Church has served as a beacon of light to the community of Hope Town for 193 years hence today is an exciting one for us as we bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ, a love that has withstood the test of time, tradition and perils. I am blessed to be currently serving as Minister at St. James. The gathering together of so many people of different ages, ethnicity and nationalities resounds hope; hope that peace among men is a reality. My prayer is that Methodism would continue to provide opportunities for people to experience God’s love and salvation.”
The congregation joined together for a time of fellowship and refreshment immediately following the service.