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History of Church

The Early Days

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries priests came from Britain to the West Indies to serve as Chaplains to the colonial Governors.

During the 1820’s, St. George’s Anglican, the first Anglican Church in the Cayman Islands, was situated on the prime waterfront site now occupied by Elmslie Memorial Church. The first work by the church was however in Bodden Town, the then capital of the Cayman Islands, under the administration of a layman, Mr. James Coe. This was because clergy manpower was limited and Cayman, at that time, was a dependency of Jamaica.

In 1826, Bishop Lipscomb arrived in Grand Cayman where he found “neither clergyman, lawyer nor apothecary” (Bishop Lewis Evans History of Jamaica). There was a yellow fever epidemic at the time. This was the first time a senior member of the Christian clergy had ever paid a call to the Cayman Islands.

Bishop Lipscomb visited Grand Cayman again in 1829 and “promised to send an ordained clergyman” (Neville Williams’ History). Consequently, in 1831, a Mr. Sharpe arrived and commenced pastoral works. He was later replaced by Rev. Charles Watson.

A hurricane hit Grand Cayman in 1837 and completely destroyed St. George’s Church in George Town and seriously damaged the Governor’s Church at Bodden Town. Architectural plans were drawn for the rebuilding of St. George’s and construction began but there were insufficient funds to complete the building.

At this period in time there was an urgent need to intensify the Anglican missionary trust in Jamaica, the main part of the diocese (British Honduras, now Belize and the Bahamas were also a part of the Diocese). Bishop Lipscomb recalled Rev. Wilson to Kingston “apparently feeling that his energies would be better employed in missionary work in another corner of his huge Diocese”. Neither he nor the Bishop ever returned to the Cayman Islands and the work of the Anglican Church here lay dormant for a century and a quarter.

Re-establishing of the Anglican Church in the Cayman Islands - The 1960’s. 70’s and 80’s.

In January 1963, the Rt. Rev. P. W. Gibson, Bishop of Jamaica, received a request for spiritual help from a member of small group of Anglicans residing in the Cayman Islands.

The next month he sent the Rt. Rev. J. C. Swaby, Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, to visit Grand Cayman and meet with the Anglican fellowship. This formally commenced the re-establishment of the Anglican Church in the Cayman Islands. One month later the Rev. E. Don Taylor (now Bishop) visited and held a worship service with members of the fellowship. In August the same year, The Rev. Weevil Gordon was formally appointed by Bishop Swaby to take responsibility for the oversight of the Anglicans living in the Cayman Islands.

Early Spiritual Leaders

Between 1963 and 1967 worship services continued to be held in homes and in hotels. Rev. Gordon visited once a month to administer Holy Communion, perform other pastoral duties and preside at the monthly advisory committee meetings. In 1967 permission was obtained to conduct services at the Elmslie United Church and the Roman Catholic Church Building, both of which are in George Town. Membership grew steadily and in February, 1970, Bishop Swaby, accompanied by Rev. Canon R.O.C. King and Rev. Gordon, performed the very first confirmation. Five persons, including Caymanians, were confirmed at this time.

St. George’s Anglican became a Mission of St. Matthew’s Parish Church, Kingston. Although Mission status did not provide the privilege of having a representative at Synod, because of the uniqueness of the geographical location of St. George’s, it was made possible for the church to be represented. Mr. J.A. Cumber CMG, MBE, TD, the chairman of the Advisory Committee was the first representative to Synod. He was succeeded by Mr. Gerald Waddington, the Attorney General of the Cayman Islands. On his retirement as Attorney General and Chairman of the Advisory Committee, he was succeeded by Mr. John Elliott who became the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. In August, 1973, Mr. Lawrence Small was licensed as Cathecist. This was another step toward developing the local leadership of the congregation.

Early Administrators

January, 1976 the church celebrated a great milestone when it purchased the site of the present church for $8,000. Ground Braking for the new building, designed by Rutkowski, Bradford and Partners, was done on June 20, 1976 by the Rt. Rev. E.D. Edmondson, Lord Bishop of the Diocese. The Diocese assisted the Church with a loan that was supplemented by fundraising efforts by foundation members. Dr. Roy McTaggart, a leading Caymanian, also made a substantial contribution.

Laying of the Corner Stone, February 17, 1978

The church building was completed in 1979 and on April 1, that year it was dedicated by Bishop Edmondson. Two trees were planted at the ceremony beside the walkway by the Bishop and H.E.  Thomas Russell, Governor of the Cayman Islands.

Dedication of the Church

Rev. Nicholas Sykes, from Jamaica, who was working as a teacher in Grand Cayman, was given permission by the Bishop to exercise a priestly ministry at the church whilst he remained a teacher on the island.  One year later he resigned from the Diocese of Jamaica and St. George’s went through a very difficult period. Through the stalwart personal work carried out by Canon Gordon, and the cooperation of the Diocese, St George’s was home to different priest every week.

In June 1982, land was purchased close to the Church, to build the St. George’s Rectory. Plans were drawn and approved on October 19, 1983, and ground breaking for the building took place on December 18, that year. Looking ahead, the members also bought land next to the church, in order to construct a Church Hall. A generous contribution to pay the final installment on this plot of land was made by Mr. Earnest and Mrs. Vita Ebanks. The Rectory was completed in June 1985 and became the residence of the Rev. Harris Spence who was appointed priest-in-charge on September 24, 1984.

In April, 1987, the 117th Synod of the Diocese of Jamaica approved the resolution to elevate the mission of St. George’s, Grand Cayman, to the status of a ‘Settled Congregation’. As a result, Rev. Harris Spence became the first Rector of St. George’s Anglican Church. Later that year the church building was extended by the addition of a balcony and an entry porch, and consecrated on September 11, 1987.

Work on the St George’s Church Hall, the brainchild of Rev. Spence, started shortly after. This two-storey building, at the time was one of the largest buildings on Grand Cayman. The outer structure of this building was completed in 1996.

Expansion

Between 1986 and 1990 two missions were started, the first on Cayman Brac and the second in West Bay. A small group of Anglicans (expatriates) lived on Cayman Brac and this group was used to start the nucleus of the mission, with the aim to attract other persons who were not affiliated to any church. The Rector, Rev Spence, conducted monthly services on Cayman Brac as long as the air transportation schedule permitted this.  The second mission was in West Bay. Services were held at 6:00pm every Sunday at the Catholic Church, Church of the Redeemer. The congregation at these services in West Bay ranged from five to sixteen and so served as a good nucleus for further growth. It should be remembered that the restarting of St. George’s began with five persons. Unfortunately however, both missions were closed in 1998/9, after the new Rector assumed office.

Devastation and Rebuilding

On September 11, 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman at Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The church buildings, especially the church, were all damaged. It took two years to complete the repairs to all of the buildings. During this period church services were conducted in the preschool situated on the ground floor of the church hall.  The rededication service of the church took place on Sunday, September 10, two years from the day hurricane Ivan struck.

As a result of the dark days following Hurricane Ivan the church has been refurbished and increased in square footage. The balcony has been extended, the floor is now tiled/ carpeted over poured reinforced concrete, the roof covering is seamless metal over bitumen, plywood and sound insulation board in lieu of corrugated metal. This prevents services from being disrupted when there are heavy showers of rain. The light from the three large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling highlight the beauty of the interior. While the money for the repairs came from the insurance settlement, the new artifacts were provided through special donations and love offerings from members of the congregation. It should be recorded that the stained-glass window, donated by John and Iris Elliott in 1990 was not damaged during the storm.

The interior and the exterior of the Rectory were repainted, the electrical fixtures updated and furniture replaced / refinished. In addition the driveway was resurfaced and later the fence was upgraded thus making the premises again habitable.

Membership

St George’s Anglican (Episcopal) as the church is now officially called, has increased in membership over the years. Unfortunately however there has not been a significant increase in the native Caymanian membership. Many members are contracted officers from other countries who often return home when their contracts expire or they retire. As a result the membership is always changing, with persons being members for varying lengths of time. 

The early members made a valuable contribution to the development of the Church. Among those persons, some of whom are still worshipping with us and continue to support the activities of the Church, are Mr. Lloyd and Mrs. Dorette Armstrong, Mr. Egbert McHayle, Ms Andrea Rhodes, Mr. Smith, Mr. David Kendall-Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. Graham Taylor, Mr. Ulric McNamee, Ms Esther Reese, Mr. John and Mrs. Iris Elliott, Mr. Lemuel and Mrs. Marcia Hurlston, Ms Louise Brown, Mr. Astil Murphy, Mr. Ormond Atterbury, Mr. Ewan Alexander, Mrs. Valerie Thompson, Ms Pat Wilkinson, Mr. Roy and Mrs. Lilian Archer, Ms Edna Harrison, Mr. Colin and Mrs. Molly Whitelock.