The United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica – the largest apostolic body in the island, has moved from ‘rags’ – thatched roofs, dirt floors, board structures – to ‘riches’ – modern roofing, ceramic tiles/concrete floors and structures, with all the modern amenities.
It has grown from strength to strength, winning spiritual as well as physical battles and has held fast to the apostolic doctrine and truth, still actively carrying out the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 verse 19.
It is the mission of the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica to go into all regions of Jamaica converting souls and developing them into effective witnesses, for the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ
Transformed people living transformed lives
The act of worship is the rule and not the exception in human existence. The question is not will humans worship, but rather who and how will they worship. God calls people to worship Him passionately with every area of their lives, and all of our actions and attitudes have the possibility to bring honor to God.
Gifts of the Spirit
God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). As Spirit-filled believers, we can exercise simple faith to receive God’s miraculous gifts and to stir up the gifts He has already placed in our midst.
Salvation & New Life
The Bible is the sole authority for salvation; the basis of salvation is Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; and the application of grace and the expression of faith come as a person obeys Acts 2:38, thereby receiving the new birth promised by Jesus.
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The Bible is the infallible Word of God and the authority for salvation and Christian living. (See II Timothy 3:15-17.)
A Short History Of The United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica
The United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica – the largest apostolic body in the island, has moved from ‘rags’ – thatched roofs, dirt floors, board structures – to ‘riches’ – modern roofing, ceramic tiles/concrete floors and structures, with all the modern amenities. It has grown from strength to strength, winning spiritual as well as physical battles and has held fast to the apostolic doctrine and truth, still actively carrying out the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 verse 19.
The vision of the organization is “A transformed people living transformed lives” and the vehicle to achieve this, is “To go into all regions of Jamaica, converting souls and developing them into effective witnesses, for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let’s take a little time to learn about our roots and be a part of ‘history in the making’ of the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica.
The history of the apostolic church dates back to the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 2 verses 1 – 4 and 38 – 40, the scripture records the first heavenly outpouring at Jerusalem in A.D. 33. The Holy Ghost fell on one hundred and twenty persons gathered in the Upper Room. It was a strange, but remarkable occurrence that day, but it had been prophesied in Joel 2: 28 – 29. Many of the early leaders were persecuted and martyred. Against all odds, however, the Church of the Living God has prevailed and is alive and well today. The Lord Jesus stated in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The genesis of what would later become the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica started in 1916 with one Methodist woman, affectionately called Mother Russell, who had a yearning to know more about the Lord Jesus Christ. She was led to witness to persons concerning the love of God after World War 1 (1914 – 1918) which ravaged the world and left many hopeless, including people living in Jamaica. With no knowledge of the ‘new birth’ experience, she simply led persons to the Lord with the evidence of a changed lifestyle and total dependence on Him for daily sustenance. God saw her desire to know Him in His fullness, and before long, she, and many to whom she had witnessed, were filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized in the name of Jesus. The testimony of the apostolic experience was shared with her by Sis. Mulvina Whyte, who later pioneered the Emmanuel Apostolic Church.
After this, there was no stopping Mother J.C. Russell, as she invested her life in spreading the gospel. Later, contact was made with the United Pentecostal Church International, and the Jamaican work became a district of the international body. It was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1949.
In 1947, Reverend Ralph Reynolds, a Canadian, was appointed by the United Pentecostal Church as the first missionary to Jamaica. He was accompanied by his wife, Helen, and their four children: David, Paul, Dawn, and Margaret. Mother Russell was appointed to the position of District Secretary, and Bishop Reynolds served as District Superintendent until 1952.
Missionaries who served as National Superintendents since then have been:
Reverend W.R. Pair – 1952 to 1956
Reverend A.D. Varnado – 1956 to 1967
Reverend R.V. Reynolds –1967 to 1970 (second term)
Reverend P.V. Reynolds – 1968 to 1976
Since 1977, the organization has been led by Jamaicans, as follows:
Reverend N. Houslin – 1977 to 1993
Reverend D. Gallimore – 1993 to 1999
Reverend W. Stewart – 1999 to 2001
Reverend W. Rankine - 2001 to 2003 (Acting)
Reverend J. Smith - 2003 to 2010
Reverend O. McKoy - 2010 to present
In 1949, the first Board of the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica was formed by Rev. Ralph Reynolds, and comprised of National Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Secretary Treasurer and Presbyters. It is significant to note that Mother Russell and two of her daughters, Nina and Naomi, served on this Board.
During that same period, Reverend Reynolds, a believer in the critical role that training plays in evangelism and the spiritual growth of converts, established the first Bible School, in which fifty men enrolled. The annual fee was one pound, and the school was located at 68 Wildman Street, Kingston. It made history as the first Bible School to be established on a mission field by the UPCI and was later named Caribbean Bible Institute. The late Pastor Stanford Grizzle was appointed the first local Dean of the CBI in 1971 and Pastor Winston Stewart was the first local principal in 1977.
The first National Board under local leadership, was formed in 1977. It was comprised of the Reverends Norman Houslin, National Superintendent; David Gallimore, Assistant National Superintendent; Winston Stewart, Missions Director; Reginald Gayle, Secretary Treasurer; Eldemire Green, Eastern District Superintendent; David Smith, Central District Superintendent, and Alfred Palmer; Western District Superintendent.
Missionaries from Jamaica:
In 1976, Pastor Devon Dawson was sent as the first missionary to Guyana, and what an impact Jamaica made on a territory twenty-two times its size. Through the phenomenal work of the Holy Ghost in the lives of Brother and Sister Dawson and their family, and the sustained prayer and support of the United Pentecostal Church International and Jamaica, an indelible mosaic was created across the spiritual landscape of the country.
Reverend and Mrs. Frank Kellier, became the second missionary family from Jamaica. They departed for Belize in 1984 following a call in 1981, and a visit to the country in 1982.The work started in their home with two neighbours and the postman. The first two persons to be baptized were one of the neighbours and the postman. When a half-finished building was found in a heavily populated area of Belize City, assistance to purchase the property was provided by the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica, the Foreign Missions Division and the Belizean brethren.
Pastors from Jamaica who visited to provide support and preach, included Bishop N. Houslin, who preached at the dedication of the building in February 1989, Pastor W. Stewart, who preached special services in 1989, and Pastor M. Kelly, former Home Missions Director, who preached in 1990.
In 1987, Brother Dolbert Clarke went to work in Grand Cayman, and as expected of a true apostolic, he let his light shine and witnessed for the Lord. Many years before, in the 1960’s, to be exact, the late Pastor Vinelda Gray had made house-to-house visits and held prayer meetings while working in Grand Cayman. Brother Clarke canvassed and had prayer meetings until there was need for a rented hall for worship. With the continued encouragement of Bishop N. Houslin and precious saints, the work thrived in Grand Cayman, and in 1997, the sanctuary was completed and dedicated to the glory of God. Pastor Clarke was appointed Superintendent of the Caymanian work in 2004.
The late Brother Paul Swaby, went to Venezuela in the 1980’s to study, and eventually became involved in the work of the United Pentecostal Church in Caracas. He made several trips to Jamaica, accompanied by Venezuelan brethren, thus exposing them to the Jamaican way of worship. Jamaican brethren who visited to lend support to the work, included Reverends Winston Stewart, Paul Gallimore and Robert Stewart.
Missionary Valda Russell, daughter of Mother J.C. Russell, served for twenty years as a United Pentecostal Church International missionary to Liberia.
Significant Achievements during the last twenty years
Headquarters Offices were established at 45 Eastwood Park Road, Kingston 10 during the tenure of Bishop David Gallimore, with the dedication being held on May 11, 2000. The complex houses offices for the national leaders as well as a bookstore, conference room and the Eastern Campus of the Caribbean Bible Institute.
Implementation of the Regional Structure
The decision to implement a regional structure was ratified in the 2004 National Conference, thus phasing out the district structure, which had been in place for many years. The National work is now divided into seven regions, each supervised by an executive presbyter.
Airing of Local Radio Programme
Righty Dividing the Word, a local radio programme, produced by the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica, was first aired in February 2005 and continues on FAME FM at 6:00 am every Sunday.
Writing of Sunday School Curriculum
On April 3, 2005, under the leadership of then National Sunday School Director, Reverend George King, over two hundred members of the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica gathered at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston to write a national curriculum for Sunday School. This effort has been sustained over the years, resulting in Sunday School teaching manuals being produced on an annual basis, thus paving the way for the re-introduction of the annual National Sunday School examination.
During the tenure of Reverend King, the Teacher Certification Examination was introduced, and a number of Sunday School teachers were certified at Level One. Later, the level 2 examinations were introduced.
Establishment of National Men’s Fellowship Department
In 1999, then superintendent Pastor W. Stewart, shared his vision for the establishment of a strong and vibrant National Men’s Fellowship. This became a reality, and the announcement was made at the Fifty-fourth Annual Conference of the UPCJ in the year 2000. Pastor Leroy Dawson was appointed as the first president.
Camp Site Development
The development of the Camp Site, later re-named the UPCJ Multi-purpose Complex, commenced in 2007, because of an urgent need for a place to hold the annual summer camps. Since then, this complex has been the location of most of the national activities of the organization. In addition to the original four acres of land purchased, two further purchases increased the amount of land to 14 acres. The first National Convention held at the camp site took place in 2008, and apart from 2021 and 2022, when the Covid 19 pandemic prevented large gatherings, conferences have been held there ever since. In March 2020, in keeping with the aim of creating a world-class complex on this location, a new Camp Ground Development Committee, under the leadership of Sister Tanesha Rainford, was appointed. One of the first tasks of this committee was to apply for a change-of-use of the property to facilitate the building of permanent structures on the land. This was granted in November 2022, and ground will be broken to signal the commencement of this project during conference 2023, God willing.
National Youth Congress
Under the leadership of former National Youth President, Bishop O’Garth McKoy, the first National Youth Congress was convened at the Montego Bay Community College on Easter Monday, 2005, and, since then, has become a highly anticipated annual event for the young people of the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica.
Junior and Teen Camps
The first National Camp was held in 1964. The first Junior Camp was held in 1993 and catered to both the juniors and teens up to age sixteen. However, during the last twenty years, the organization has seen the advent of separate National Junior and Teen Camps, with the first Teen Camp being held at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), Portland in 2005.
A strategic Committee was formed in 2012, under the leadership of Sister Nicole Manning. This team is empowered by the National Board as key representatives of the organization to network with National Departmental Leaders, Regional Presbyters and pastors of local assemblies, to ensure successful implementation of the Strategic Plans.
The Objectives include:
Implementation of the Strategic Plan
Increasing the effectiveness of the organization.
Two of their major projects were to amend the UPCJ Constitution and prepare a Procedural Manual.
Hitherto hath the Lord kept us!
The United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 1900’s. Buildings that once housed growing congregations, have moved from the typical thatched roof structures with dirt floors and bamboo slats or slabs of board for benches and Tilly lamps for lighting, to more modern structures. In addition, there has been emphasis on creating sufficient space for growth, education and recreation.
And here we are now, having navigated what we hope has been the worse of the Covid-19 pandemic, the onset of which created numerous challenges for all our churches, particularly the rural ones, where internet service was often non-existent or unstable. Many of our activities had to be curtailed and ingenious ways had to be found to ensure that the flock was still fed.
The year 2020, saw the first virtual camps, workshops, seminars, ministerial meetings, Sunday School classes, Bible Studies and church services, streamed on the various social media platforms, followed by virtual annual national conferences in 2021 and 2022. Evangelistic efforts such as ‘Boots on the Ground’, drive-through-missions through communities, during which the Word is shared, people are prayed for and care packages distributed on a regular basis, had their genesis at the outset of the pandemic, and continued in earnest throughout 2021 and for several months into 2022.
But despite the challenges, the church still prevailed and many of our pastors now know how to use the various platforms to ensure the gospel message is still shared and fellowship is had one with the other.
If there is one thing that the Covid 19 pandemic has brought to the fore for the United Pentecostal Church of Jamaica, it is the myriad creative and effective ways in which the gospel of Jesus Christ can be shared, in addition to the face-to-face modality. It has also underscored the fact that there is no limit to where this apostolic message can reach and the continued use of technology should be considered as an added tool in our arsenal. Where formerly, only members and visitors in the physical buildings had access, brethren and visitors from across the island of Jamaica and the world, can receive the Word wherever they are. Let us pray that a mighty revival breaks out, as a result of these evangelical efforts.
The Word of God in 1st Corinthians 3 verses 9 to 11 reminds us: “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
So, by faith we keep marching on.
On with the Original!