A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CHURCH ARMY
How it all started
In 1882, the Rev. Wilson Carlile, a young curate at St. Mary Abbott, Kensington, England, began to have open-air services opposite the Kensington High Street Station. His aim was to take the Gospel to persons who would not come into the Church. Interested persons would be taken to the Vestry Hall for a short service ‘with bright hymns and choruses’, extempore prayers and a very brief address.
Carlile was assisted in the open-air services by local working men. He later saw the need for these persons to receive training in order for them to be effective, and so in 1883 training of officers commenced. From such humble beginnings, the Church Army was born.
Church Army in Jamaica – How it began
According to the late Bishop Evans in “A History of the Diocese of Jamaica”, the Rev. F.H. Perkins, an English clergyman, introduced Church Army into Jamaica in 1892. He trained ‘cadets’ at Stony Hill. Apparently there were 106 ‘soldiers’ of the Church Army enrolled in various parishes. The group did not last for very long, because by 1896 the Army had disappeared.
In 1958, Church Army was reintroduced to the Diocese, when the late Bishop Percival Gibson invited to Jamaica Captain Ernest Cousins, an English Church Army Officer, who was then in Trinidad. He was joined by a Jamaican, Roy Wilson, and a Barbadian, Noel Foderingham, who had enrolled and trained in the Church Army College in England and were commissioned Officers. These three Church Army Captains concentrated mainly on open-air work and Parish and Diocesan missions.
The first candidate sent from the Diocese of Jamaica for training was Egbert Robertson who served the Diocese faithfully for many years both as a Church Army Captain and later as a Clergyman. Many others have been sent for training over the years,
Officers were formerly trained at the Wilson Carlile College of Evangelism in England from which they graduated with a Diploma in Evangelism. In 1999, an agreement was reached with Canada and our officers were sent for training at the Taylor College of Mission and Evangelism in New Brunswick, Canada. Training usually lasts for three years, but more mature persons may do a two-year intensive training programme.
The training was two-fold: academic and practical. Academic included courses in Biblical Studies, Ethics, Ministerial Formation, Church History, and Doctrine. Practical includes In-Term Practical (ITP) i.e. working one day per week in a specified area, and doing Autumn and Summer placements of 6 – 12 weeks. Students are placed in different areas to gain hands-on experience of ministry. Experiences include Prison or Hospital placements, working in Homes for the Aged, Drop-in and Youth Centres, Holiday Camps/Clubs, Night Shelters, Street Ministry, Parish Work, Beach Missions among others.
On completion of training, officers returned to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands for licensing and deployment. Since 2011, efforts have been made to do training locally.
Church Army Jamaica Today
There are currently eight active Officers, one of whom will retire later this year. Officers are engaged mainly in Parish Work. Officers are deployed as follows:
– Sister Alvarine ‘Gem’ Roberts – Parish Work, St. Gabriel’s, May Pen, Clarendon, and
Chaplain, Glenmuir High and Preparatory Schools. She is also involved in Church Planting in
Longville Park, Clarendon.
– Sister Norma Thompson – Chaplain, Church Teachers’ College, Mandeville.
– Sister Melvorn Stewart – Chaplain, Cornwall Regional Hospital.
– Sister Myrel Moss – Superintendent, St. Monica’s Children’s Home, Chapelton
– Sister Molly Walton –Head of Church Army and Director of Evangelism.
– Sister Andrea Taylor – St. Andrew Parish Church
– Captain Joshua Henry – Spot Valley Mission (Church Plant)
– Sister Phyllis Thomas – Deceased
Church Army Jamaica, unlike its sister societies, is not an autonomous body and operates within the framework of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Officers are available to conduct evangelistic missions, and to assist or give guidance in the planning of such missions throughout the diocese, as well as training in evangelism.
Church Army International
Church Army is an international body and currently operates in the following areas: Africa (Kenya & Malawi), Australia, Barbados, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vanuatu. The National Leaders of Church Army, Board or Council members and Trainers meet every two or three years in what is known as the International Leaders’ Conference. Church Army Jamaica hosted this conference in 2008. There are also quarterly teleconferences by which we connect with each other to discuss CA matters and pray for and support each other where possible.
Since 2011, CA started the Associate Evangelist Programme (AEP). Two groups of persons have already successfully completed their training and will be commissioned on November 16 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral, Spanish Town.