METHODIST CHURCH OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: A HISTORICAL NOTE
The Methodists extended their West Indies mission from Grenada to Trinidad and Rev. Thomas Talboys became the first of
its ministers to serve the slave population. When he came to Trinidad, he found some 10 or 12 Methodists who had been
members of the Wesleyan societies in the Windward Islands, so he formed them into a society and began his mission in
Trinidad. The Methodist missionaries worked hard to preach the Gospel to the slaves and already in 1810 there existed in
Port-of-Spain a thriving Methodist chapel with regular services, attracting members from the Catholic and Anglican
planters. More importantly, they incurred the displeasure of the Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, whose objections centred on
the disagreements they had with the teaching and practices of both the Anglicans and Catholics and, in particular, to the
Methodists’ practice of educating the slaves and allowing them to preach and also on the grounds that the Methodist
baptised slaves who, at times, represented themselves at a later date for rebaptism in the Catholic Church. The Governor,
therefore, permitted Talboys to baptize and bury only outside the boundaries of Port of Spain. Another source of controversy
centred on Rev. Talboys’ refusal to join the militia, this resulting in further harassment from a number of people, some of
whom subsequently attempted to force him to leave Trinidad. However, the Governor intervened and prevented this. When
his term closed in 1812, Rev. Talboys reported a membership of 138, only two of these being ‘whites’.
Some years later, the minister, Thomas Blackburn was forbidden to administer the Sacraments and conduct marriages and
funerals. He did not comply and reported, in November, 1814, that new members were joining every week. Finally, in 1817,
Governor Woodford closed down the Methodist chapel in Port-of-Spain and it was not reopened until some time later.
In due course, the Methodists were allowed to practice their faith in peace and by the end of 1837, according to
E.L. Joseph, (1838), there were two missionaries, five or six stations, about 500 members, and one or two schools.
The foundation stone of the Wesleyan Chapel in Port-of-Spain, now known as Hanover Methodist Church, was laid on
2 March, 1826 by Henry Gloster, a great friend of the Wesleyans. On 11 November, 1827, it was opened for Divine service
by the Rev. S. P. Woolley. The chapel was situated on Hanover Street, now renamed as Abercrombie Street. The
congregation comprised mainly slaves and free 'blacks'.
Over the years, other churches have been built in San Fernando, La Brea and in Scarborough.
For a perspective on the Trinidad mission, prior to emancipation:
and in the pre-conference period:
In 1887 it was reported that members of the Wesleyan community were mainly immigrants, arriving in Trinidad on a regular
basis from the neighbouring Protestant islands. Fewer of them were natives of Trinidad.
There was an unsuccessful attempt to plant Methodism in Tobago in 1795.
Some years later, in 1817, Mr Cunningham, a prominent Scarborough planter, welcomed the Methodist missionary from
St. Vincent who visited Tobago that year. In 1818, with the arrival of a minister, Rev. Rayner from St. Vincent, the Society
of Wesleyans established a Mission in Tobago, following a request from Mr. Cunningham, who also opened a fund to cover
the cost of the mission.
In 1820 the Methodist mission had a membership of four ‘whites’, forty-six enslaved people and two missionaries.
On November 24, 1824, in Scarborough, the building commenced of a new Wesleyan (Methodist) chapel, which opened in
1826. Today, the Methodist Church, situated on the hill (Cuyler Street) is one of Tobago's oldest churches.
In 1834, at the time of emancipation, the Wesleyans had churches in Scarborough as well as in the parish of St. George,
and the membership numbered 1250 people. Schools for Tobago’s children were also founded.
1872 -Concurrent Endowment Act passed by which the Church of England ceased to be the established church of the
colony. Annual grants of money were made to the Anglican Church, United Brethren (Moravians) and Wesleyans.
For a perspective on the Tobago mission, prior to emancipation:
and in the pre-conference period:
History of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas
The story of Methodist missions in the area was part of the struggle against slavery. Some of the missionaries genuinely
believed that all men are born equal in the sight of God and were persecuted as a result. They endured untimely deaths,
caused by yellow fever, malaria and plague. They suffered the hazards of hurricane and earthquake, but through it all
continued with their mission.
The Conference marked the transference of final authority from the British Conference to the new Conference, the District
Synods henceforth reporting to Antigua instead of to London.