The Coley Mountain SDA Adventist Church organized February 27, 2021 | Credits: Volunteer Photographer
Pastor Nevail Barrett, Executive Secretary CJC (at the podium), officially declares Coley Mountain the 203 organized church in CJC. Stewardship Director CJC and former pastor of the Mile Gully district of churches Dr Thomas Bryan (stage right) stands with members and current pastor Joel Shillingford (stage left) to show his support. | Credits: Volunteer Photographer
A view of the congregants present to witness the organization service for the Coley Mountain SDA Church. In the congregation are former Pastor of the Mile Gully District of Churches Dr Gary Budhoo Fletcher and his wife, (front left) community members and members from the sister churches in the district. | Credits: Volunteer Photographer
Born out of the evangelistic efforts of Pastor Wesley Gayle and Mile Gully Church members in the year 1977, the Coley Mountain Sabbath School worshipped at the agricultural depot in the area soon after its inception, but member migration and delinquency soon caused a reduction in attendance that led to its closure.
After forty-four years of repeated attempts to maintain an Adventist presence in the community, the Coley Mountain company was organized as a Church in the Mile Gully District of Seventh-day Adventist Churches.
However, to appreciate the members' commitment and perseverance, we must look back at the journey to achieving this milestone.
The Early Years (1977-2010)
In 1977, the Mile Gully SDA Church, under Pastor Wesley Gayle's guidance, launched an evangelistic campaign in the Coley Mountain area. Permission was granted to use the agricultural depot and the little flock worshipped in that location for some time.
The Lord prospered the evangelistic effort, and about 20 souls were baptized. The success was so great that the members decided to maintain the presence, and Sabbath services were held each week under the leadership of the late Elder Raphael Grant. Migration and delinquency then caused a reduction in attendance, so it was decided to return to the Mother Church, Mile Gully SDA.
Some years passed, and Pastor Gary Fletcher and the Mile Gully Church members decided to revive the presence once more. They pitched a tent and had an evangelistic campaign with Evangelist David Campbell as the preacher. A few of the youth gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized. They once again decided to maintain the presence. A parcel of land was lent to advance the cause of God, and the determined members erected a tent, and Sabbath services continued after that.
After many months, it was stated that the Conference needed the tent for another location. The members were then without a place to worship. The Lord would not allow their effort to go in vain, so he led the determined members back to the depot where it all started. It wasn't conducive for worship, but the members endured the hardships; the attitude of the youth was also very encouraging. The Lord was in the midst, and the gospel was being spread. The Church had youth coming from as far as top Somerset giving their lives to the Lord.
The Lord spoke to the heart of the late Brother Samuel Bailey, a male nurse at the Bellevue Hospital and the parcel of land and gave it to the members to build a place to worship. Immediately, Pastor Fletcher mobilized his members, and they erected a board structure. Significant support was given from the Sister Churches.
With great joy, the members were elated to be in a structure built with their own hands and that they could call home. Pastor Fletcher was then transferred to another circuit, and Pastor Philbert Rowe took up the mantle. Several evangelistic campaigns were held during his tenor, and the company continued to grow. Elder Henry Haughton and his wife were asked to assist, and their service was invaluable. They put their all in service to the Lord.
The members sought organized Church status, but migration and delinquency again hit, and the membership started to dwindle. Pastor Rowe was then transferred, and after that, the doors of Coley Mountain were shut. The structure was then torn down, and the members were asked to attend the Church in Mile Gully. After many years, Pastor Anthony Dowding took over the pastorate and was told about Coley Mountain. The members decided to have a revival, and a few precious souls were baptized. Once again, the members recognized the need for the structure.
The Transformative Years (2011-2021)
The Mile Gully District of Churches, under the pastoral care of Pastor Anthony Dowding, in the summer of 2011, embarked on an evangelistic effort, and 14 persons were baptized and added to the Church. After that, the decision was taken at a board meeting of the Mile Gully Seventh-day Adventist Church that Coley Mountain should be reestablished. Elder Steve Palmer of the Johns Hall Seventh-day Adventist Church was asked to be the Elder, and Sis. Sheila Wilson was asked to serve as a Leader. The members worshipped beneath a tent until 2012 when the present wooden structure was erected. The membership at that time was 20 adults and 14 children.
Unfortunately, the membership declined after that; Coley Mountain Company feared the worst, down to only seven members. After the decline in membership during 2015-2017, the Lord had it that Pastor Thomas Bryan and intern Pastor, Rayon Brown, helped rebuild the membership. The members again began working on the Church's infrastructure – windows were placed in, and the building painted. What a difference the building now made in the community. Pastors Bryan and Brown rallied around the members and instilled a sense of focus and pride in the Church. The committed, Elder Sheila Wilson worked tirelessly to solicit funds to assist the Church in its various endeavors. She also served as the leader for many years.
Then on August 11, 2018, came Pastor Joel Shillingford, a very hardworking and caring Pastor who took the baton and ran with it.
According to Pastor Joel Shillingford, it was always his intention that Coley Mountain becomes a Church in the Mile Gully District of Churches.
"The first project, tackled, was the enhancing of the front of the Church. A few more members were added to the fold in 2019, Mr. and Mrs. Baker, neighbors of the Coley Mountain Company. Then, with the dedicated members of the Coley Mountain Company and help from the mother-Church, we tackled the construction of the building," said Shillingford.
He also expressed his appreciation to the former pastors for the contributions they made.
"Many thanks to all former pastors, including those present Dr Gary Budhoo-Fletcher and Dr Thomas Bryan. Coley Mountain is walking in the right direction and will continue to grow by leaps with the help of King Jesus," he concluded.
At a board meeting held on May 12, 2020, of the Mile Gully Seventh-day Adventist Church, it was voted to recommend to the Executive Committee of Central Jamaica Conference Church status for the Coley Mountain Company. Finally, the Conference's Executive Committee, at its meeting on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, voted to accept the recommendation from the Coley Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Company that it be organized as a Church into the sisterhood of Churches within the Central Jamaica Conference.
In a Service of Organization, conducted by Executive Secretary of the Central Jamaica Conference (CJC), Pastor Nevail Barrett, on Saturday, February 27, 2021, the Coley Mountain Church was organized as the 203rd organized Church in CJC.
Pastor Nevail Barrett commended all who worked hard in making this possible.
"The Central Jamaica Conference congratulates you, Pastor Joel Shillingford and the leadership of the Mile Gully District of Churches for making the organization of the Coley Mountain Church possible," said Barrett.
He also added, "This is a significant milestone, and we thank God for giving our pioneers the vision to start this initiative. The lives of the people in this community have been impacted positively through the ministries of this Church; I implore you to continue the rich tradition of being the beacon of light in this community both collectively and individually. And may this edifice remain the house of prayer for all people," he concluded.
With this new addition, organized Churches in Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists now total 203.