History of The Church
The Christian Church came to the West Indies and the Americas with their European visitors and invaders. The first Christian Service in the English Language in America was conducted in 1580 on the Pacific Coast when Francis Drake first sailed around the world. In 1587 on the shores of North Carolina the Sacrament of Holy Baptism was administered to Nantes, the first Indian Convert.

The Catholic Church of Rome came with the Spanish, Portuguese and French and established itself wherever those nations went. The Catholic Church of England also came with the English, mainly as the Church for English-speaking people. The English Church, called these days “Anglican”, from the ancient Latin name of the Catholic Church in England – Ecclesia Anglicana, meaning simply the Church in England, was in Barbados early in the 1600’s.

In 1625, the Rev. Nicholas Liverton worked there. The actual arrival in St. Vincent of Christianity is a bit hazy. It has been said that the Roman Catholic Church attempted to establish itself among the Caribs as early as 1652 with French Jesuit Priests. This attempt however, seems to have failed, ending, it is said, in the murder of the priests by the Caribs. It was not until much later, with the arrival of a few French settlers that the Christian religion began to take root on the island.

The English Church came with the English and soon established itself as the Catholic Church of the island. From a close examination of Vincentian Church records and of the Histories of Jamaica and Grenada, the Roman Church was in no way hindered from working among French settlers and their descendants on the island. Indeed it was called the French Chapel and the priest the French priest. From all the records examined, no law seems to have been made against the Roman Church, as has been suggested, and as existed in England at the time; and as existed against the Church of England in Roman Catholic Countries. It is recorded about Grenada in 1784, that although the glebe lands owned by the Roman priests while they were the established church under the French became the property of the British Crown, they were still paid an allowance “for the pastoral care of the papists.” And 1807, in Jamaica “French and Spanish priests were permitted to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience.” The British authorities would hardly then have a different policy for St. Vincent, except possibly during the war with the Caribs when the French were stirring them up against the English.

The earliest extant records for the Church in St. Vincent are from 1765. It is interesting to note that the first Baptism in those Records is that of Britannia St. Lawrence on the 10th February 1765; the first Marriage record was Constantine Semetry and Mary Semetry on 18th April 1765. That same year the first burial was that of Thomas Jammet.

It has been said that the Church did not minister to the other peoples besides the English. The records*, however, tell a different story, for though the Church in those days regarded itself as the Catholic Church for English people, there are numerous recorded Baptisms and Marriages of Negro, Coloured and Carib people. It is recorded that on 24th May 1768 two French Negroes John Bourdeux and Mary Frace were married. There was on 15th January 1770 a mixed marriage between Ambroise Maute and Rozelelonsele, she being a free Negress. The following year, two Caribs, Lewis Baremant and Naneau Ranie were married.

Among other interesting entries are the burials in St. George’s Church yard of Methodist preachers before and after they separated themselves from the Church. Also, the French Priest being allowed on at least two occasions to bury Roman Catholics in the Church Yard – the 9th December 1785 being one of those occasions. The French Church never had many followers in St. Vincent as the French population was small and therefore it did not have much impact on the island as a whole. It is very interesting to note that in 1771 a French Priest Rev. Francois Tremois died and was buried by the Rector in the Churchyard.

In 1780, the first St. George’s Church in Kingstown was destroyed by hurricane along with “every building in St. Vincent.” Because of this devastation, the rebuilding of the Church took a long time, and it was not until 1820 that it was ready for consecration. A church cannot be consecrated until it is free from debt.

On the 26th August 1820, a Vincentian born priest, the Rev. Lansdown Guilding, became the Rector of the United Parishes of St. George and St. Andrew vacated by the death of his father the Rev. John Guilding in 1818 and the resignation of the Rev. William Aubray Phillips.

On Wednesday 6th September 1820, the completed Church of St. George now free from debt, was consecrated to the glory of God. A diarest of the period writes: “The Southern Regiment of Militia assembled at the Court House, then marched to the Church yard, where they were drawn up until the arrival of the Governor, who was received on his arrival about 11 a.m. by a double guard of honour composed of the flank companies of His Majesty’s 9th Regiment and the Southern Regiment of Militia ranged on the right and left of the Avenue leading from the street to the Church. His Excellency was accompanied by Lady Brisbane, members of the Council and the Assembly. After they had entered the sacred building now happily devoted to the worship of the Supreme Being, the service of the day, including the form of consecration was conducted.” An appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev. Lansdown Guilding from Leviticus Chapter 26, verse 2. Music for the service was rendered by the band of the 9th Regiment.

Three bells were sent from Liverpool by Mr. N.B. Cooper for which the Governor paid his attorney £226.2s.11d sterling. The pulpit and Reading Desk arrived from England in December.

In 1873 the Church was disestablished and to quote “from that period dates of the New Diocese of the Windward Islands comprising St. Vincent, Grenada, the Grenadines and Tobago. Later, however, Tobago was separated from the diocese and St. Lucia added. On the 20th May 1880, the corner stone of the Chancel was laid by the Administrator and in 1887 the Chancel and Transcepts were consecrated by Dr. Bree, Bishop of the Diocese.

The building is mainly of lava stone, in simple Georgian style standing on some four acres of ground. The interior is very striking with a magnificent Norman arch leading form the Nave into the spacious crossing of the Transcepts, a flight of stairs lead the eye through the Chancel to the high altar which stands truly high above the floor of the nave.

In 1920 when the Cathedral celebrated its 100th Anniversary of consecration as the parish church, the day was declared a public holiday by the Government, and all the dignitaries of the land with thousands of people joined in giving thanks to Almighty God for having established His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in their midst, and for the beautiful Temple dedicated to this Honour. Everyday of the Octave there was a “choral Eucharist” and Evensong with a Special preacher. How much indeed was the need for thanksgiving for the Church as the Bride of Christ is the servant of the people of God and as such has always been concerned not only with the spiritual well being of the people but also with their physical and mental health.

The church down the centuries has been and still is in the forefront of education. It is interesting to read in the Bishop’s Visitation when he resided in Barbados, of the various schools and institutions of learning run by the Church and often by the parish priest himself. Some of these having served their purpose are now forgotten, others still continue though perhaps in the hands of Government. The St. Vincent Grammar School was originally inspired by the Church and one of its headmasters was a priest of the Church.

In her concern for the hungry and the poor the “Communicant’s Association” was founded on the 29th October 1856, this Association, besides “exciting one another to the duties of religion” thus what is commonly called the “soup kitchen,” giving to at least 25 poor persons, irrespective of religion, a dish of hot food everyday. The Church has always concerned herself with the youth and their advancement, offering a guiding hand that they might find fulfilment in their lives.

In 1927 the Diocese, which had been held in plurality with the Diocese of Barbados received its own Bishop when the Right Reverend Father in God, Alfred Packenkam Berkeley resigned both Dioceses and was then entroned in St. George’s Cathedral as the Bishop of the Windward Islands. In 1962, the Venerable H.G. Pigott was consecrated the first West Indian Bishop, after many years service to the Diocese. He retired in 1969 and was succeeded by the Right Reverend G.C.M. Woodroffe.

Bishops of the Windward Islands:

Alfred Packenkam Berkeley - 1927 - 1930
Vibert Jackson - 1930 – 1936
Horace Norman Vincent Tonks - 1936 – 1947
Ronald Norman Shapley - 1949 – 1961
Harold Grant Pigott CBE - 1962 – 1969
George Cuthbert Manning Woodroffe - 1969 – 1986
Phillip Edward Randolph Elder - 1987 – 1994
Sehon Sylvester Goodridge - 1994 – 2005
Calvert Leopold Friday - 2005 -

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