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BRIEF HISTORY

Calvary Gospel Assembly was raised up by God through the life of Curtis Cole, aided by his wife Hazel. Curtis was saved on the first day of August 1950 after hearing the song What A Friend We Have In Jesus as it played from a juke box, and made a public declaration a few days later at a Youth For Christ Rally at St. Luke's Hall in Kingston. He married Hazel Wilmot in 1951, built a house at 127 Sundown Crescent (just off a main artery Molynes Road) and moved in with his then small family in August 1953. In 1955 they became members of Rehoboth Gospel Assembly (the place they were united in marriage by Pastor Henry White), and Curtis soon felt a strong urge to begin a church in the Molynes area where they lived.

Hearing that the owner of the lot next door was about to migrate to England, Curtis asked to be considered if ever the lot was to be sold. Before long, the first lot adjacent to their home (#129) was offered to him for sale, and he bought it in his wife's name. What began as a vision of a church in the area was fast becoming a reality.

In 1954, even before becoming members of Rehoboth where they had been attending for some time, a children's Sunday School was started on the verandah of their home, and in January 1957, Curtis sought the help of others in the church in carrying out a gospel campaign on premises that he owned in Four Roads (Molynes Square). The evangelistic effort was undertaken for two weeks with Rev. Harold Bowe from Calvary Baptist in Florida as guest speaker. A temporary building was constructed for the evangelistic effort and remained in place for six months housing the congregation of new converts. Construction of a permanent structure at Sundown Crescent took place speedily, and the church was formally opened with a service of dedication on July 28, 1957. Pastor White gave oversight to the young congregation, viewing the work as an extension of the "mother church". Members of Rehoboth and Bethel Gospel Assembly gave significant support and help to the baby church.

The Molynes Gardens sub-division was very new when the Coles settled there as one of the first families in the area. Weekly prayer meetings and cottage meetings were started in their home, and the Sunday School grew rapidly as their family and young community did, aided by a visitation programme that Hazel developed with new residents.

Before the lot was acquired, Hazel thought the idea of a church was far-fetched, but she did not discourage Curtis as the idea seemed to delight him so much. He had a conviction from deep within--a vision from the Lord--that God wanted him to build a sanctuary next door. Before that could happen though, objections from another lot owner had to be overcome through the courts. The objector did not want a community centre in the area--not one that included worship. Hazel, in whose name the lot was purchased, appeared in court on the appointed date, but the objector did not. The case was thrown out.

The corner lot (#131) went up for sale with a sign on it. Curtis put out a fleece deciding not to ask the owner about buying. Instead, if he were approached to buy the lot, that would confirm that God was in fact directing him. The risk was that someone else would buy it. After months passed, he was approached by the owner, and that confirmed the vision as from the Lord. Not long after, he also purchased two lots (#s 1 & 3) on Lorraine Avenue, the road behind, making the property four lots bordered by three streets on a main thoroughfare. What a vision!

Curtis Cole was ordained and inducted as Pastor of Calvary in 1961 and shepherded the congregation right up until his decease in 1988. His service as a leader in the denomination earned him the honour of being named a Life Member of the AGA Executive Board. Starting with him sitting with the committee simply to report on the plans for a new church Calvary, he was involved with the acquisition of Merl Grove High School, contributed to determining the denomination's name for vesting (registration) in 1959, and laboured much as one of the longest serving Chairmen. More than anything else, he intensely loved and was loved by both the faith and general communities of Calvary. Fittingly, he is interred next to the sanctuary he built, close to the roadway in the community that he served, among the trees that he planted, and if it were possible hearing the voices of school children like those who hugged him daily as he made his rounds. Curtis Cole and Calvary bear strong resemblance looking back from just about any point.

Officers of Calvary over the years

An average of one new deacon per year has served Calvary over the fifty-three years, with fifty-six (56) persons holding the office namely: Agatha Davis, Alfred Foreshaw, Andrew Edwards, Arthur Ross, Basil Chen, Byron Campbell, Carlton Francis, Cecil Taylor, Cedrick Small, Clarence Wilson, Clive Webster, Courtney Lyn, Curtis Collin Cole, Derrick Gordon, Donovan Cole, Dudley St. A. Bragg, Dwayne Small, Dwight Fairclough, Edgar Hibbert, Edwin King, Elley Mae Walker, Fredburn Myers, Garth Minto, George DeLisser, George Headlam, George Payne, Guy Minott, Herbert Masters, Herbert Silvera, Hilton Haynes, Janice Wissart, Kenneth Meredith, Kevin Campbell, Linval Stimpson, Manton Wills, Marjorie Wilson, Melvin Lindo, Michael Stimpson, Norbert Walker, Redva Howard Cox, Roy Rose, Ruel Marsh, Rupert Goodrich, Seymour Williams, Silas Powell, Stanley Bennett, Sybil Daniels, Terrence Williams-Brown, Trevor A. Barrett, Trevor S. Barrett, Uriah Watson, V. O. Shirley, Vincent Tulloch, Walter Hill, Winston Calder, Winston Edmonson.

There have been nineteen men ordained as elders while at Calvary, and one significant member of the Executive Board who was not ordained at Calvary but spent some time as a member. One elder was ordained at Calvary for the purpose of serving in a para-church ministry. These elders are: Andrew Edwards, Anthony Oliver, Arthur Ross, Aubrey Russell, Calvin Gabbadon, Carlton Francis, Clifford Briggs, Courtney Lyn, Curtis Cole, Dennis Brown (became member), Dudley St. A Bragg, Dwight Fairclough, George Headlam, George Payne, Herbert Masters, Julius Creary, Kenneth Meredith, Linval Stimpson, Rupert Goodrich, Silas Powell.

The pastors of Calvary in chronological order: Curtis Cole (1961-1988), Dudley Bragg (1988-2000), Peter Garth (Oversight 2001-2006), Anthony Oliver 2006 - present. (Pastor Henry White gave pastoral oversight before such a position was formalized). Elders Carlton Francis and Courtney Lyn were in responsible roles of leadership during the period between full-time pastors. Importantly, Calvary has turned out to be a nursery of pastoral development helping to shape the likes of Lloyd Bewry, O'neal Walker, Peter Garth, Godfrey McAllister, and others who did stints of service there. Calvary's own preacher-training institution The School of the Prophets was designed to give homiletic training opportunity and exposure to young men at the church and opened doors for Garth Minto, Guy Minott, Lionel Forbes, Edgar Hibbert, Carlos Saunders, Leonard Gabbidon, Cecil Taylor, Clive Webster and others.

Forbes, Hibbert, and Taylor are currently pastoring churches in North America, and Elder Courtney Lyn has recently entered the pastorate serving at Treadways Gospel Assembly, having been nurtured at Calvary from the beginning of his spiritual journey. Shane O'Connor, a current and active pastor in the AGA grew up at Calvary, and right from there went on after high school to pastoral training at the Jamaica Theological Seminary.

Music at Calvary
Over the years, Calvary has been known for good music. Elaine Phillips, a friend of Hazel, came to Calvary in 1960 and helped build a formidable choir. She teamed with Maria Masters in duets, and with others in small groups. Calvary put out the first Jamaican long playing Christian album in 1962 under the name Musical Messengers with two other albums following shortly afterwards. Pastor Cole in producing this project, engaged persons outside of Calvary to help. The voices are those of Allan Staples, Jonathan Campbell, Fred Headlam, Victor Smith, and Granville Campbell, Hazel Cole, Maria Masters, and Elaine Phillips, accompanied by Lloyd Harris.

Then there was Melody Cole, teenage daughter of the pastor and a pianist extraordinaire. She not only composed for the youth chorale that she directed, but also trained and harmonized an exceptional female group, the JEMS Quartet, which toured the island and Grand Cayman as winners of the Jamaica Youth for Christ "Talents for Christ" competition. Melody's siblings took turns leading the youth chorale in the ensuing years. In fact, much of the music foundation for Calvary was laid through the pastor's family of nine children taking active part in the music ministry of the church, Pastor Cole himself playing the guitar, giving encouragement and providing leadership. One family member debuted a Cantata at Calvary, songs from which went on to be performed nationally by the Jamaica Philharmonic Orchestra and Y Choral Group, and by choirs overseas. Additionally, a monthly Singspiration became a musical highlight in Kingston attracting young people to Calvary from many other churches on a Sunday night. A reputation for good music contributed to Calvary being invited and given free air time in JBC TV and radio studios, as well as outside broadcasts.

Calvary Preparatory School
Soon after establishing the church, Calvary was on the move to reach and serve the community in another institutional way--this time through education. As an experienced builder, Curtis erected a second edifice on the property, this time on the lot right on the corner. When Calvary Prep School opened its doors in 1959, twenty-five students from the immediate and surrounding communities made up the enrollment. The vision of Pastor Cole the manager, was to provide sound educational instruction within a framework of spiritual guidance, enhanced by proper physical development. Mrs. Gloria Dyer was the only teacher when the school opened, and as the community grew, so did the school; so that by 1975, there was an enrollment of 150 children with five teachers, and further growth was to come in succeeding years. This growth was evident in two significant phases of physical expansion, the first being a two-storey structure named in the school's 50th anniversary celebrations (2009) as The Curtis & Hazel Cole Building, and the second which included a kitchen was built by Elder Calvin Gabbadon.

The current principal, Mrs. Elley Mae Walker is the longest serving head, and is a member of Calvary as are a number of other staff including Karen Simpson-Dilworth who joined the staff in the same period as the principal and has become the much admired organizer of the school's tightly-choreographed graduation exercises. The list of past students include teachers, pastors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, musicians, and a current Parliamentarian in the person of Dr. Fenton Ferguson. There have been nine principals in all: Gloria Dyer, Sylvia Taylor, Donovan Cole, Hazel Cole, Amy Knight, Terrence Williams-Brown, Curtis Collin Cole, Rhona Anglin, and Elley Mae Walker.

Calvary and Evangelism
Calvary became known from very early as a pioneer in evangelistic efforts. The Great Western City Crusade began under the open canopy of heaven in the summer of 1964--a first among local churches to have a large outdoor evangelistic campaign. Pastor Cole purchased 1500 metal chairs overseas for the purpose, and in the heyday of attendance, weekdays would have up to one thousand attendees, and closing Sunday nights almost always required every bench to be taken out of the church with the count of persons topping two thousand (2,000). The first crusade speakers were Ron Susek and V. Seymour Cole (Curtis' brother) who alternated four two-week summer campaigns from 1964 to 1967. Other speakers for this hallmark Calvary event include Crawford Lorrits, Robert Shine, Gerry Gallimore, Julius Creary, Walford Thompson, Clarence Jacobs, Jim Wilson, Roy Lauther, Eddy Cline, Peter Garth, Errol Rattray, Rennard White, and John Fraser.

It addition to mass meeting evangelism, Calvary has kept its Sunday School roots alive, changing the gathering time from 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoon to Sunday morning before the worship service. One thing that has not changed is the presence of iconic Sunday School Superintendent Marjorie "Aunty Madgie" Wilson who has taught thousands and led so many to the Lord, only God knows. Summer Camp and Vacation Bible School round out the summer holiday special efforts at winning the lost for Christ.

Calvary: Church Planting and Supply
Pastor Cole saw an opportunity to start another church. A friend and ministerial colleague offered him land for sale further on Molynes Road in front of Pembroke Hall. The land was already approved for a church, but this friend, an American missionary needed to return home and was not able to plant the church. Calvary was mobilized, and by 1975 Arlene Gardens Gospel Assembly was established. Members of Calvary were commissioned to Arlene Gardens to lead and to help. Clarence and Floris Wilson are among those who were sent and gave sterling, consistent leadership. Herbert Masters--already an elder when supplied from Calvary, was the first pastor after the founding pastor. But it was not Calvary's first supply of a pastor for an AGA church.

In the very embryonic stages of Calvary's development, Emmanuel needed a pastor for the work that was being established. Pastor Cole and Albert Karram had scouted out the Red Hills Road property, arranged for the purchase, and built the structure. Leadership was now needed, and that which was ably given by Pastor Henry White through the good cooperation of Rehoboth, was only temporary. Basil Chen was dispatched from Calvary to meet the ongoing pastoral need, and became the first shepherd of that congregation. Two other persons commissioned from Calvary in shepherding capacities are Kenneth Meredith who went to Light of Life and Silas Powell who served at Spring Village and elsewhere. Carmen Evans was sent along with Meredith to Light of Life to be in charge of the Sunday School.

There are a number of other AGA churches that received great help from Calvary, among them Hope, Duhaney Park, and Portmore Gospel Assemblies for which Pastor Cole provided the major building expertise and supervision. His involvement in the building of the physical structure led to involvement in building the spiritual structure of the church--that is the people. The people of Calvary were called, commissioned, encouraged, and taken on the road to help in each case; so when Exchange Gospel Assembly was being contemplated by the central body, Calvary was in the exchange of ideas and implementation which led to the former JEM work becoming part of the AGA. Human resources were marshalled from Calvary to St. Ann to the work there, as well as to Clarendon's Salt River (Ruel Marsh, Trevor A. Barrett, Pansy Small), Lloyds in St. Thomas (George Headlam), and wherever else there was need.

Calvary and Community
Calvary continues to serve the Molynes Gardens area in many ways. Under Pastor Dudley Bragg, a medical clinic doing periodic basic examinations was developed with volunteer nurses from the church and other medical personnel from outside--a ministry which still persists today. Calvary remains the most important community gathering point. On these grounds, the monthly meetings of the Molynes Gardens Citizens Association and Neighbourhood Watch are convened as they have been for decades. Calvary is a main polling centre for general and municipal elections. Youth clubs in the area have been accorded the privilege of meeting in a classroom or on the grounds; and the playfield area is well-populated during weekday afternoons and on Saturdays with young men playing football and other sports. Many community disputes have been brought to the leaders of the church and been settled in private meetings. The church and school buildings have filled the need as shelters for dislocated residents after hurricanes, the most critical recent need being after Hurricane Ivan.

Calvary and Missions
Jamaica's earliest formal missionary sending agency was the IMF--the International Missionary Fellowship. Both the AGA and Calvary had significant input of time and personnel in the now-defunct agency. Support for missions and missionaries at home and abroad, however, has remained high on the Calvary disbursement agenda. Leslie and Leo Harris in Haiti, Gerry Gallimore and YFC, Theodore and Charles Cropper who came to Calvary from the Eastern Caribbean in the 1970s and were supported in the field in central Africa, all knew that Calvary was praying and giving to the benefit of God's work in them. The missionary spirit has persisted through every pastor including the incumbent Dr. Anthony Oliver who spearheaded the church's unparalleled support of a mission trip to Liberia, West Africa as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. The Sunday School has been an integral part of the missionary effort hosting a Missionary Fair in November of each year, with the funds from this family fun and bargain sale day going to the mission field.

Long intransit neighbours and refugees from Cuba became a cross-cultural mission field right at home. Calvary helped to provide food, clothes, and even shelter, holding an occasional worship service in Spanish. Worthy of note is the local mission by youth to the Mona Rehab Centre to deliver cheer and gifts, to offer hope and help to the physically and mentally challenged residents. Led by Monica (Cheese) McLean, this effort has seen more than a decade of annual Christmas visits . Street meetings arranged and led by Deacon Ruel Marsh saw to the regular and sometimes frequent proclamation of the gospel message in Calvary's Jerusalem--the Molynes Gardens area.

Calvary's Youth
During the many years that Jamaica Youth For Christ had a Saturday night rally, Calvary's weekly pulpit announcements included the weekly rally which the youth were reminded about and challenged to attend. As such, many young persons from Calvary became involved in JYFC events: competing in quiz, teen speaking, singing, instrumental competitions; going on Discover Jesus! missions, using dramatic and musical talent in national JYFC plays. Denominational sports events generally find Calvary fielding a competitive team whether it be football, cricket, netball, track and field, or more recently dominoes. Among the outstanding youth leaders are Herbert Silvera, Garth Minto, Dwight Fairclough, Donovan Cole, Robert Wiggan, Maria Gordon, Curtis Collin Cole, and Charmaine Lamb.

Located right on a main route for public transportation, Calvary is a main meeting place and hub for United youth meetings, youth cluster meetings, youth committee meetings of all sorts, as well as United choir rehearsals, national Women's and Men's Fellowships, and even for denominational relief efforts which have had the benefit of youth power in their execution.

Anniversary Celebrations
Calvary marked two significant milestones: 25 years and 50 years, both commemorated with magazines, and the latter warmed up for with a 45th. The 2007 event marking the 50th year witnessed several persons returning from overseas for the occasion.

Those overseas have had their own times of getting together with the first Calvary reunion held in New York on September 4, 1994. A second reunion took place in Fort Lauderdale in 2003. These gatherings bear testimony to the profound impact that Calvary Gospel Assembly has had and continues to have in the lives of those who have passed through those gates on the corner of Sundown and Molynes. These functions give indication of enduring relationships forged, life-changing opportunities opened, paradigm-shifting encounters made, eternal gratefulness realized, transformed perspectives shaped at Calvary--where burdens are lifted. To God be the glory!

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