THE JOURNEY OF A CHURCH
In the June, 1963, issue of ‘WORLD VISION’, the Mission Department’s newsletter of Open Bible Standard Churches Incorporated, Rev. O. Ralph Isbill, then missionary secretary, stated: “Operation Kingston will, God helping us, begin this summer with a city-wide evangelistic campaign in Jamaica’s capital city and grow into a permanent church....”
On August 9, under a large tent in the George VI Memorial park, now National Heroes Park, the beginning of this dream was realized. Under the leadership of Rev. Arthur W. Henderson, a missionary from the United States of America and Field Director in Jamaica, the crusade started and lasted for four weeks. Rev. Henderson filled the pulpit with Rev. Frank W. Summers, a Canadian born Evangelist, a member of the Assemblies of God who was later ordained with Open Bible Standard Churches in 1966. There were over four hundred converts, some of whom formed the first membership of the Kingston Open Bible Church.
As the crusade came to a close, no place could be found to relocate the tnt. The Four Square Church decided then to loan their church property at Cassia Park Road. The tent remained there until December, and in January, 1964, 12 Washington Boulevard became the new site, and has since continue to be the location for the church.
Just prior to the removal of the tent from Cassia Park Road, rev. Clyde Johnson and his family arrived in Kingston to assist Rev. Henderson. Rev. Johnson was later succeeded by Rev. D. Anderson, in 1965.
In 1964, the first female Evanbelist Mrs. Lola Lee Mitchell conducted a crusade from February 2 to 23. She continued to serve holding meetings under the tent while the church building was being constructed.
In that that same month, the first Sunday School classes were held at the tent at 8:45 a.m., under the direction of Sister Henderson. During these years, the Kingston Open Bible Church started to take shape with the formation of a Church Board. Members of this Board included Sister Ruby Bell(secretary) and messrs. L. Shepherd, B. Nelson and G. Cassells, who later became the Church’s first treasurer.
March 1965, brought new developments. Heavy winds demolished the tent, and with only the skies for a canopy, the morning service were quiet hot. It became necessary to erect a temporary building which was used as church for four years.
Construction of the present sanctuary started in June 1966. Due to lack of funds, the progress was greatly hampered. The ‘Star’ newspaper in May, 1968 carried a photograph of the unfinished building and questioned the reason for the prolonged delay. Suggestions not worthy of mention here were made by the newspaper.
In August,1967, the Rev. Hugh Neil returned to the island after studying abroad to take up the position of Dean of Jamaica Open Bible Institute and he was to play am important role in the development of this Church. When Rev. Anderson left, Rev. Neil was appointed Associated Pastor, the first Jamaican to have a pastoral position in this church. With the assistance of the Pearl E. Morgan family of Dallas, Texas and the Kingston Overcomers, two units of the building; the church office and the prayer room were completed and were dedicated on June 26, 1968. In September, 1968, Rev. F.W. Summers became Pastor of the Kingston Open Bible Church after serving as Pastor for the Glad Tidings Church in Spanish Town and it was through his vision, dedication and hard work that after a few years the sanctuary was at last completed. Dedication took place on January 5, 1969. In his message on that occasion, Rev. Summers said: “My prayer is that this church will be a soul saving centre and healing clinic for the oppressed and diseased and a source of comfort to all who worship within these walls...our hearts are full today and our feelings are expressed in the words of the prophet, Hither to hath the Lord helped us...”
With the earnest desire to see the church’s programme reach out to those around, the leadership now focussed on the construction of an education wing. A loan of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00) was granted by the Victoria Mutual Building Society after the property was offered as collateral, and members of the church, in the persons of Rev. Summers, Rev. Neil and Messrs. G. Cassells, L. Shepherd and E, Wright served as guarantors. Construction started in November, 1970, and was completed in May, 1971. Thus, Obistan Preparatory came into being, with the Rev. H.D. Campbell as its first Principal.
After serving the church for eleven years, Rev. Summers, World Evangelist, Field Director, Superintendent, said goodbye to the congregation on June 31, 1979. He later died in Canada on January 28, 1981. On his leaving, Rev. H. Neil acted as pastor, until October, 1979 when Rev. Alston Henry assumed pastoral responsibilities.
Rev. Henry possessed, like his predecessors, an earnest desire to see the church minister effectively, not only to its members, but also to those within the wider community.
In 1980, the Frank Summers Clinic was opened in the education wing. In 1981, a manse was purchased and in 1983 a house was bought at No. 15 Hawthorne Avenue. This house was acquired for the purpose of providing a home; a place of comfort, for the aged of the church fellowship in need of such facility. This was not the end of the church’s dream, however. Negotiations were reopened into the possibility of purchasing the lot at 1A Carawina Avenue (investigations being aborted in 1971). It was purchased in 1982 and today is the site of the Social Outreach Centre which was started in 1985.
It houses the Frank Summers Medical Centre which comprises a Medical centre, a Dental Clinic, a Pharmacy and Counselling services, the Obistan Kinder-Preparatory, the Obistan Evening Institute, a Library, lecture rooms, and a skills training centre.
The Church’s attempts to minister to the wider community is not limited to the immediate locale. Over the years an interest has been maintained in missions, both here in Jamaica and abroad. In 1991, a building for the fellowship at Charlemount, St. Catherine. The Kingston Open Bible Church has played the role of a ‘parent’ by supporting the fellowship over the years and contributing substantially to the building programme.
From time to time other churches, specially in their early development are assisted, two such examples being the Haven of Hope Open Bible Church in August town, and the Glad Tidings Open Bible Church in Spanish Town.
In addition to this type of assistance, the church also supports some para-church organizations and individuals in their missionary work. These include the Jamaica Child Evangelism Fellowship, the students’ Christian Fellowship and Scripture Union (SCFSU), Melda Warren and Madge Bennett, workers with Christian Literature Crusade, Gene Denham, staff worker with SCFSU, and Hyacinth McBean who ministers abroad.
Kingston Open Bible Church has developed over the years. Its membership has grown approximately eight hundred and it attracts quite a number of visitors and adherents. This has resulted in two Sunday morning worship services being held: one at 6:45 a.m. and the other at 10:00 a. m. its appeal, no doubt, must be attributed to a variety of ministries and to a lesser extent, its artistic attraction.
It boast among other things, two choirs of excellent quality, a dance group of repute and a drama group, Unity, that has done itself proud.
The Kingston Open Bible Church is a church that has come a long way; and a church that still has a far way to go. It is a church with a vision-not just for the spiritual man but for the whole man.
We join Rev. Summers in saying. “….hitherto hath the Lord led us……” and we have the confidence that Jehovah – will, indeed, continue to provide.