"Hitherto, hath the Lord brought us" This phrase can probably be the mantra that the Glad Tidings Tabernacle, the church on the hill, sings in commemoration of forty illustrious years of existence. From a little wooden building in Dauphine Village to a concrete edifice on the hill side in Gomea, Glad Tidings Tabernacle, both the physical structure and those who call this church home, stands as a beacon that signals to many that “unless the Lord builds, they that labor, labor in vain.”
Glad Tidings was born out of a thought in the minds of Jack and Daisy Keyes, missionaries from Canada. They saw the need for the Caribbean Region, to be recipients of the Pentecostal flair and so, moved by God, they started to work in the Caribbean Islands. It was out of this work that Glad Tidings was established. Having established Faith Temple, the first of P.A.W.I churches on the island, men who felt the call for missions ventured out in 1969 and came to the area bringing the gospel. These men Godfred Mc Kenzie also known as ‘Whiteman’ and Ricardo De Shonge among others, paid their own way or hired a taxi Sunday after Sunday to hold ‘open air’ meetings in the area, standing in the road near to what is now the Gomea Methodist Church in Ashburton. Their continual preaching sparked interest among the populace who started showing some interest and with twelve members Glad Tidings Tabernacle took flight.
Growth continued by the help of God and other persons including, Pastor Kelvin Joslyn and his wife, joined the ministry. They assisted in the ministry of the word and in song in many of these meetings. Fitzroy Chandler, who had left a similar work, also joined the work around this time. Growth demanded space and space they sought and God in his providence saw it fit to move on the heart of Eric and Amy Gibson, land owners in the area and with their gracious offer the foetal Glad Tidings Tabernacle moved into their first home in 1970, the downstairs of the Gibson residence, sitting on stones and a few benches. The Gibson’s would play a greater role still when one year later, in 1971, the church now headed by Brother Fitzroy Chandler bought a Three Hundred Dollars building and erected the structure on a parcel of land adjacent to the Gibson residence at a rental fee of $0.01. Bursting at the seams the church moved yet again and on the 3rd May 1972 the church purchased lands in the lush hills of Gomea at the cost of Two Thousand Dollars and work began to construct a new sanctuary in the following year. Members labored untiringly day and night, using any means, necessary ‘toting’ up foundation stones from the banks and river bed of the ‘Saydee River.’ With the help and support of many individuals both locally and internationally, the church finally took on its intended shape and came to fruition. The final structure of this church was completed and on the 14th April 1974, its doors were officially opened. It was a momentous event which included the baptism and reception into membership of another set of new converts.
Fitzroy Chandler was now left to carry the work along as the time of the others had come to an end. Chandler moved into the area to be closer to the people he gave oversight to and quickly became known as a ‘community man.’ He was always in the business of helping both those who were saved and unsaved. Many can recall the nights or wee hours of the morning when he was called to assist a member in dire need acting as either a counselor or an ambulance taking individuals to the hospital. He made sure to check up on his ‘patients’ both during and subsequent to their hospitalization or period of illness. He never said no was intimately involved in the lives of his congregants. His tendency of always answering the call, of being ‘a man who every one and any one can call on at any time’ led to Glad Tidings Tabernacle being dubbed ‘Chandler chuch’ by the inhabitants of the communities. He not only worked on the physical structure but worked on the church within the four walls. This is perhaps what was most impressive about his ministry; he seemed to have had a phenomenal impact on the community; his community spirit was un-daunting and combined with the work of the Spirit in his life and the life of the church and it members, the church remained strong.
Under his leadership many came to know Christ as their Lord and saviour and methods not then known were introduced to meet the needs of those who came. He mentored and challenged many who would later return and assist in the ministry or venture out on their own and be leaders in other ministries. Many groups were formed including the Women’s Missionary Council (W.M.C), Men’s Fellowship, Christ’s Ambassadors otherwise called ‘youth ministries,’ Crusaders and both a senior and junior church choir. In addition Pastor Chandler was instrumental in the establishment of the Glad Tidings Tabernacle Pre-school that still stands as one of the leading pre-schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Chandler and his wife Iotha worked tirelessly and sacrificially to build and make Glad Tidings into a leading church. With the help of able bodied individuals the work went on and many others came to know God and call Glad Tidings home under their ministry.
Rev. Chandler remained resolute and fixed his face like a flint on the work that he was sent to do.
It was not always a bed of roses though as the church was hit with both internal and external strife. From its inception the church was seen as a threat and many from the outside looking in sought to oppose the work. Internally, there were those who left the church and their beloved pastor for ‘greener pastures.’ In spite of this desertion, Rev. Chandler remained resolute and fixed his face like a flint on the work that he was sent to do. He carried the message of the gospel to the far corners of the Island; to as far as Chateaubelair in the North and to the villages in the immediate vicinity of the church. In so doing, others who were receptive to the gospel came to Christ. He also took the gospel beyond the borders of St.Vincent and the Grenadines and as part of his ministry, inaugurated and assisted with missionary projects throughout the Caribbean region.
Perhaps the major struggle for the church came when both the shepherd and his wife were struck with grave and debilitating illnesses. After a period of illness, Rev. Chandler was called home to be with the Lord on the 17th September 1998. Sis Chandler, who herself had suffered strokes was also called home to be with the Lord two months after her husband’s death. It was a challenging time for the church and the board, as they were left without a shepherd.
They were however, supported by the District and in conjunction with said district began the search for a new shepherd. During that time, the message of ‘change’ was echoed time and time again. Visiting speaker after speaker came and brought a message that suggested that God was about to blow a fresh wind through Glad Tidings. It was not until the advent of Rev. Sonny and Morine Williams in February of 1999 that many realized and saw what God was saying.
Rev. Williams and his wife and family came with a wealth of experience and expertise that carried the church into the new era that was upon it. Change came in many forms. The spirit of excellence that came with the new leadership pervaded the church and the challenge to expel mediocrity quickly became the order of the day. Scriptural teachings, though present from afore, seemed to take on new meaning as rich applications to the real life situations of the populace served to broach fresh perspectives on how life is meant to be lived. The eyes of many were opened and the ‘anointing’ that is often championed took on new light. Many who were struggling in their personal life received strength and began to see the latent potential within them.
Perhaps the most important element of their ministry was the emphasis that was placed on the development of the human resource of the church and the emphasis on training. The vision statement of the church, cultured by Rev. Williams, ‘A Trained, Mature, Reproductive, Community that Penetrates the World” is an encapsulation of the thrust of the church to have it’s members trained adequately so that they too can compete on the same level with the world or on an even greater level, and take and take the light of Jesus with them. Rev. Williams stated in 2000 that, ‘Glad Tidings will have so many degrees, you would think that it’s a thermometer.’ At that time, there were only two (2) individuals with degrees in the church. Now, more than ten years later, there are more than twenty five (25) young people and adults who have furthered their studies and have gained their degrees at various levels in various fields of academic pursuit or have continued their education for their own betterment; either through attending institutions outside St. Vincent and the Grenadines, or by distant learning.
Now Glad Tidings is a church comprised of Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Counselors, Information Technology Personnel, Educators, Marine Biologists, Human Resource development officers, Insurance Agents and Pastors just to name a few.
In addition many of the builders, farmers and service providers have themselves grown in their skill bases and have gone on to own their own businesses and to become employers and hold competitive positions as leaders in the their own field of endeavor. A number of these individuals continue to serve in St. Vincent while a number of others have taken up residence in other territories carrying on the principles that they have gained from the rich history of the church. Even to this day many individuals still pursue the challenge to equip themselves and be trained for better futures.
The penetration of the world motif is one that was magnified during this era. As a giving church, Glad Tidings Tabernacle has contributed to the physical development of other institutions. The history of the church as a mission driven church is one that has continued throughout the years. Since 1997, the church has sent many teams of construction missionaries on both local and regional mission to assist with building construction from as far as the Dominican Republic in the North to Trinidad and Tobago in the South.
Glad Tidings Tabernacle has been a beacon in its time. It has ministered to one generation and many are they that have passed through its doors on their way to fulfilling their own future that have been touched by the ministry of the church. Many can attest to the fact that what they have received, when applied has been indelible in their own personal and spiritual formation and like a beacon on a hill, Glad Tidings Tabernacle will continue to shine its light for another generation signaling, that Jesus is the answer for all life’s problems and with him all things are possible.