United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands


The Church's History in the Cayman islands

The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands began its ministry in the Cayman Islands in 1846 as the Presbyterian Church, after two other Denominations had been unable to keep going. Our Church has continued its ministry unbroken ever since and in that way was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in Cayman, and thus the Christian heritage to which the majority of Caymanians still lay claim.

In 1830 the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica decided to send Missionaries to preach the Gospel in Africa; they set out for Calabar in Nigeria in 1845 but did not get beyond the Cayman Islands as their ship was wrecked on the reef there. Rev. Hope Waddell was one of the ministers on board the ill-fated ship and when he discovered that there was no organized church on the islands he appealed to the Presbyterian authorities in Jamaica for ministerial help. Rev. William Niven, a Scottish Presbyterian Missionary then serving in Jamaica, also passed through Grand Cayman that year and from then passionately prevailed upon the Church in Scotland and Jamaica to extend its mission to the Cayman Islands.

In 1846, the Synod meeting at Goshen in St. Mary decided that someone should go. The joint objectives were the development of Christianity and education. The Rev. James Elmslie heard of the plight of the Caymanians and at the age of 50 he was sent to the Cayman Islands to establish the Presbyterian Church there. Rev. Elmslie had been at Green Island Church in Jamaica and when no other volunteer was found to set up the Cayman Church he said, "If no one will go, I will go". Rev. Niven literally gave his life in accomplishing the mission he felt so passionately for – he was lost at sea in a hurricane in October 1846 on his way back to Jamaica, after bringing the Rev. Elmslie to Grand Cayman to take charge of the work here.

Rev. Elmslie travelled all over the Island on horseback, by boat and on foot, planting churches, eventually in all the main settlements of Grand Cayman.

In keeping with its second objective, from shortly after it began its ministry in Cayman in 1846, the Church began to champion education, taking steps to provide elementary education throughout Grand Cayman, and to press the Government to expand the education services across the country.  At its centennial celebrations in Cayman in 1946, the Church took the decision to begin providing secondary education, offering the internationally recognised Senior Cambridge Examinations. Thus began the Cayman High School as it was then called, with its Preparatory Department, and also a Commercial Department. This was later to become what is now the Cayman Prep and High School. The role of the Church in education is no doubt reflected in the fact that the first two Government High Schools were named in memory of two of the Church’s ministers and educators in the School, Rev. John Gray and Rev. George Hicks, while the third, the Clifton Hunter High School, is named in memory of one of our Elders who was also a pioneering educator here.

United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands