By Kristine Greenaway
The Methodist Church of Haiti is celebrating its 200th anniversary. Founded as a mission in 1817, it is the oldest Protestant church in the Caribbean nation. Special events in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, last week drew attention to the church’s history and its contributions to the country.
A worship service held Sunday to mark the bicentenary drew an estimated 1,000 people. In a rousing sermon broadcast live from the Methodist Church at Bird College, Bishop Gesner Paul called for government reform and an end to corruption. His impassioned demands were met with shouts of approval and loud applause.
The Methodist Church of Haiti is a district of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and Americas. Founded by missionaries from England and Ireland, the church has survived political repression and natural disasters throughout its turbulent history.
The church is widely known for the quality of education offered through its system of 105 elementary schools, 15 secondary schools, a normal school (for teacher education), and several technical schools. The official opening of the new secondary school at Duplan near Piétion-Ville on 6 February underlines the importance of education to the mission of the Methodist Church. The seven-room facility built with financial aid from the United Church of Canada and the Methodist Church of Ireland following the massive earthquake in 2010 offers classes to 120 students.
In another highlight linked to the bicentenary the French edition of Rev. Dr Leslie Griffith’s “History of Methodism in Haiti” was launched on the opening day of an exposition of church history at Bird College. Griffiths, a minister in the Methodist Church in Britain, served in Haiti during the 1970s.
Guests attending the celebratory events included representatives of the Methodist Church in Britain, Methodist Church in Ireland, United Methodist Church, The United Church of Canada and the Fédération Protestante d’Haïti.
Bicentenary celebrations will continue throughout February and include weeks of activities for youth and children.