‘God works in mysterious ways’. Through divine providence, Nathaniel Gilbert, lawyer, planter, agnostic and owner of slaves in Antigua, was converted in 1757. The transforming event came about when Gilbert recuperating from a recent illness, asked his five year old daughter, Mary, to bring him reading material. She brought him a document sent by his brother, Dr. Francis Gilbert and written by John Wesley entitled, “An appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.” He read it with much reluctance but became convinced. The spark of grace was ignited.
In 1757 Gilbert decided to go to England to meet John Wesley, the Founder of Methodism and hear him preach. In addition to his family, he took with him three slaves. After hearing Wesley preach, Gilbert received the confirmation of faith which he sought; and his slaves were also spiritually awakened. He returned to Antigua and began preaching to slaves on his estate in 1760.
When the British Conference met in Bristol in 1786, it responded to the appeal from Antigua and Nova Scotia to send missionaries to lead and develop the work. Due to stormy weather which made the vessel unseaworthy, they headed for the West Indies, landing in Antigua on December 25, 1786. Thus, instead of one missionary, Antigua was blessed with three missionaries, namely, William Warrener, William Hammett and John Clarke.
Coke continued his travels to the Caribbean and in 1787, the Father of Methodist Overseas Missions and the three missionaries landed on St. Kitts. They were warmly welcomed by the planters and a small but vibrant group of Methodists who were praying for missionary help. Some of the local leaders who welcomed them were: Mrs. Lydia Seaton, formerly of Antigua, Richard Cable, also an Antiguan, the Editor of the St. Christopher Advertiser and Weekly Intelligencer, and William Bertie, a Kittitian jeweler.
From that little flock, led by missionaries and local leaders, the Methodist witness grew phenomenally. As a direct result of their pioneering efforts and zeal for the work, Methodists in St. Kitts now worship in eleven congregations with a membership of over 2,600 members. From this Circuit, many illustrious sons and daughters have served the church locally and the Connexion with distinction. When we consider the large number of Methodists who have migrated in the region, to Europe and North America, much has been accomplished.
See how great a flame aspires,
Kindled by a spark of grace!
Constrained by the ‘love of Christ,’ and believing that ‘working together works’, we press on with enthusiasm in the Master’s service.