The Braeton Seventh-day Adventist Church started in 1977 with a mere handful of individuals meeting the home of Brother Huon Williams at Braeton, St. Catherine. This tiny group consisted mainly of a few members from the Portmore Church which, at the time, was itself a relatively small gathering of believers worshipping regularly in “borrowed” quarters close to Rodney’s Arms, situated across the road from the old Forum Hotel.
The period 1979 to 1981 marked a significant turning point in the life of this fledging group. In 1977 Brother Neville Williams conducted an evangelistic effort at the group’s base at Brother Huon Williams’ home, at the end of which, two precious souls were baptized.
Not long afterwards, the group began to expand dramatically. The main problem at this point was to find a suitable place that could accommodate the increasing membership. A plot of land was identified at the corner of Marlin Avenue and the Hellshire Main Road and a crude temporary structure of mainly bamboo and zinc, affectionately referred to as the “bamboo cathedral” was erected to house the “church”.
In 1981, a second evangelistic crusade was held, this time in the “bamboo cathedral”. It was conducted by Elder Gladwin Hall, who at the time was one of the Elders of the Portmore Church group. As a result of this evangelistic effort, twenty-two persons accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour of their lives and consequently became members of the church. The brethren continued meeting in the “bamboo cathedral” on Sunday and Wednesday nights while on Sabbaths they attended the Portmore Church.
In 1982 Dr. C. A. Gray, who was President of Central Jamaica Conference at the time, conducted a major evangelistic crusade under a huge brown tent on an empty lot of land adjoining the Marine Park housing scheme. At the end of the crusade, the tent was relocated to a spot near the "bamboo cathedral" to facilitate the over 130 new converts, as well as the previously existing membership and others from elsewhere who had elected to start coming to Braeton with intentions of making it their home church.
At this juncture, the question of suitable accommodation for a rapidly growing congregation began to loom large in the scheme of things at Braeton. In consideration of this, the church approached the then Ministry of Housing and Construction to lease the land on which the “bamboo cathedral” was situated, with the option to purchase. However, permission was granted only for a temporary structure to be erected.
On Labour Day, May 23, 1982 lands adjacent to the “bamboo cathedral” were cleared. At one of the most difficult moments, when endurance and patience were out, something absolutely amazing happened! The experience has come to be regarded as nothing short of a miracle.
Just as soon as the congregation started holding its regular church services under the tent, Satan was to raise his ugly head again. This time, he attempted to thwart the effort of the church by means of an orchestrated plot among some citizens of the neighbourhood who began objecting to the presence of the church on lands which they claimed that they wanted to utilize for a community-based project. The brethren of the church went down in prayer and fasting asking God to intervene on their behalf. Before long, the answer came in such certain and positive way as to enable the erection of a new structure on the very spot. It was a construction mainly of wood and galvanized zinc sheeting, painted in colours of blue and white. It was called the “little blue church”.
December 4, 1983 was a red letter day in the life of the Braeton SDA Church. It was on this day that the company of believers became officially the Braeton Seventh-day Adventist Church. Among those sharing in this momentous occasion were the President of the Central Jamaica Conference, at the time, Dr. C. A. Gray and Pastor J. Hutchinson, district Pastor.
September 12, 1988 is a date most adult Jamaicans will long remember. For those too young to have any first-hand knowledge of it, this was the day on which the infamous “Gilbert” paid his unwelcome visit to the country, in the form of the decade’s worst hurricane, wreaking havoc from Negril Point. The “little blue church” proved no match for “Gilbert” and was completely demolished. The destruction brought some sadness, of course, because one could say there was a measure of sentimental attachment to the humble yet charming little blue and white structure. It had been the place of worship for some time and had now disappeared in such untimely fashion. The brethren, however, did not despair. In fact, there is a sense in which many count the experience a blessing, in that it brought renewed impetus and a firm resolve to raise a more substantial structure to the honour and glory of God.
Pastor Peter Kerr who was pastor of the Portmore Circuit of Churches spearheaded the church’s re-building drive. Land was purchased in 1989 and on November 11, 1990 a stone laying ceremony was held. Soon after, attention was focused on the construction of the church building. It was a rocky start, but the brethren remained steadfast in the conviction that “with God all things are possible”.
Shortly thereafter, Pastor Kerr’s tenure ended and he was succeeded by Pastor Claude Brown. Pastor Brown lost no time in coming to grips with the enormity of the challenge that lay ahead. He promptly moved into action, seizing the momentum he inherited, shifting it into high gear with a sense of purpose and determination that galvanized the membership into making further personal pledges of cash and kind and soliciting “outside” contributions toward building up the house of God. Incidentally, it was Pastor Brown who effectively inspired modifications to the original design of the building such that there is today, the annex which houses a Sick Bay, Deacon's Vestry and Secretaries Office, the upstairs hall and some additional space in the main auditorium and rostrum.
Committees were set up to bring a more structured approach to fund-raising and the other activities involved. Events such as harvest festivals and rallies were staged at different times,in which well-needed funds were raised to continue the construction. A major setback in the attempt to complete the church building was the rapid escalation of the cost of building materials, particularly during the period of hyper-inflation in the country. Notwithstanding this however, with further fund-raising efforts on the part of the local church, added by loan support and grants from the higher organization, block by block the members soldiered on with the task on hand.
In 1995 the Portmore Circuit of Churches was divided into two districts. By December of that year, Pastor G.S. Hyatt became pastor of the Braeton District consisting of the churches at Braeton, Newlands and Hellshire.
The completion and dedication of the Braeton Church occupied a prominent place on the agenda. Pastor Hyatt like his predecessor rallied to the cause, mobilizing the members to prompt action. Under his leadership the consensus was that 1998 would not pass without the church being dedicated. The proposed date was July 24-26 and members worked feverishly in pursuit of this objective. Perhaps the added zeal came from a determination not to have a repeat of the disappointment which attended two previous postponements of the church dedication. The main feature of this round of fund-raising endeavours was a Rally of the Parishes. Members were assigned according to the parish of their birth (or parish of choice in the case of those born overseas) and came up with various revenue earning projects, the collective proceeds of which went a far way in bringing the building to its final stages of completion.
The church building was completed after much hard work on the part of members and through the contribution and goodwill of others from both inside and outside the church community. Moving from a few members in a limited home setting to a physically comfortable edifice in agreeable, spacious surroundings with a growing membership of over five hundred (500) and capacity to accommodate up to twice this number, there was much to give God thanks for at the dedication service.
Recognizing that to whom much is given, much is required, the members focused on soul-winning and today the membership stands at about two thousand (2,000). With a pastoral team led by senior pastor Romone Phoenix, a solid leadership team and a committed membership, Braeton’s future is bright as we remain committed to the advancement of God’s Kingdom of grace, looking forward to the return of Christ to establish His Kingdom of Glory for all the faithful.
Corner of Marlin Avenue & Hellshire Main Road, Portmore, Jamaica
Braeton District, Portmore, Jamaica 1 876-998-0306 firstname.lastname@example.org