Short History of the Church
It was a memorable day on February 20, 1871 when Dr. Kenneth J. Grant started a school in a building known as the OLD THEATRE situated on Cipero Street. The spot was known as TOLLGATE and was well located for all the East Indian children in the town, and more so, at a point, which attracted a large number from the country. Church services were conducted in this building and steady progress was made in attendance of both the day school and Church services. From this humble beginning Susamachar Church started.
In 1872 Church services were moved to the first Susamachar Church Building on Coffee Street, San Fernando. When a subscription list was drawn up, the sum of Two Thousand and Sixty Dollars ($2,060.00) was collected for the Church Building to accommodate four hundred (400) persons. It was a wooden structure fifty feet by forty-five feet with a pitch pine floor. In front, on either side, was an imposing tower, capped by a dome. The Susamachar Presbyterian Church, the Church of "Good News" was dedicated on the 7th July 1872 by Rev. Kenneth K. Grant, the founder and first Minister.
As the work of the Church increased, a Board of five (5) Managers was organized in 1875 to assist in the business of the Church. A Session was later formed for the spiritual aspects of the work at Susamachar. In August 1875, Babu Lal Behari and Clarence Soodeen were ordained as the first two (2) East Indian Elders of Susamachar. In 1882, Rev. Lal Behari was ordained as a Minister of the Presbyterian Church. He was closely associated with Rev. Grant for thirty-five (35) years as "a pupil, assistant and teacher combined and a beloved colleague and trusted friend".
Rev. Grant resigned in 1907 on the grounds of the failing health of Mrs. Grant and returned to Canada. Mrs. Grant died in 1912. The marble baptismal font placed near the Pulpit was presented by the Women of Susamachar in memory of Mrs. Grant. Rev. Angus Firth succeeded Rev. Grant. Unfortunately, he died of a tropical fever the same year.
By 1926, there was urgent need for a new Church building as the first building was too small for the growing congregation. A Building Committee was set up to raise money for this new project. The appeal for contributions had an excellent response. Plans and specifications were prepared by Mr. Maurice Accane, architect and builder. Mr. Emmanuel Lucky was awarded the contract to erect the new Church which was built at a total cost of Thirteen Thousand Dollars ($13,000.00).
The new Church Building was dedicated on the 27th May 1932 by Rev. J. A. Scrimgeour. The door of the building was opened by Miss Sylvin Grant, daughter of Rev. K. J. Grant. Rev. Victor B. Walls was the Preacher. Rev. James Clarke MacDonald was the Minister at that time.
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- April 27, 1932: The Scottish Presbyterian Church of High Street, San Fernando, merged with Susamachar Presbyterian Church.
- January 8, 1933: The Stained Glass Window depicting St. Paul's First Missionary Journey was unveiled and dedicated. This was a gift from the late Thomas Geddes Grant in memory of his father, Rev. J. K. Grant.
- May 3, 1933: The Manual Two-Pipe Organ was dedicated in memory of Rev. John Smith Wilson, the last serving Minister of the Scottish Presbyterian Church of High Street.
Other notable gifts from the Grant family include the Lectern, Pulpit, Communion Table, the Minister's Chair, the Choir Stalls and the Electronic Chimes, which were dedicated on July 17, 1960. The Chimes Cabinet was donated by the Jagroop family in memory of their parents and dedicated on the same day.
The history of Susamachar would not be complete without some reference to Rev. Dr. James C. MacDonald. This teacher, scholar and theologian still lives in the hearts of many who worship at Susamachar. Susamachar's growth owes much to his efforts and dedication to duty.
The first native Minister appointed to Susamachar was Rev. J. A. Ramjit in 1959. His ministry was fruitful and Susamachar lost a worthy son when he resigned in 1964 to take up an appointment in Canada. He served for five (5) years.
The new Church Hall, an imposing structure at the Carib Street entrance was built through the untiring efforts of the Board of Managers of which Dr. C. E. Hubah was Chairman. Funds were raised to finance this building through systematic giving by the Congregation by way of envelopes. The builder was Mr. A. C. Goberdhan who died during the construction of the Church Hall. The building was dedicated on June 29, 1963 by the Rt. Rev Cyril Beharry, B.A., B.D., Moderator of Synod, Rev. J. A. Ramjit conducted the service and Rev. Dr. J.C. MacDonald brought the message.
Susamachar's growth must go hand in hand with its organisations. Groups established before 1972 were:
- The Happy Workers Society ~ founded in 1887, the oldest group of the Church. Their grand Bazaar in November is one of the highlights of Susamachar.
- Fifth Naparima Scout Troop ~ started in 1919 by C. H. Gopaul.
- The Third Trinidad Sea Scouts ~ established in 1931 by Mr. Richard Boodhram but no longer affiliated to Susamachar. Their Headquarters are on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando.
- The Lamplighters ~ established in 1953 with Mrs. Hannah Bhoopsingh-Yamin Ali as its first President. Their May Day Bazaar is often the talk of the town.
- The 7th San Fernando Girl Guides and Brownies, under the leadership of Mrs. Irma Seepersad and Ms. Pamela Ramdin respectively.
During the period 1978 to 1990 when Rev. Allison K. Nobbee was the Minister some significant events occurred:
- The introduction of the 6.00 p.m. service instead of the 7.00 p.m. service.
- A new Manse was built to replace the old wooden building, which existed before.
- Grant House was renovated.
- General restoration and refurbishing of the Susamachar Church Building.
- The inception of the Men's Fellowship of Susamachar.
- Susamachar Presbyterian Credit Union Co-operative Ltd. was formed.
With the Rotation of Ministers, a 1989 policy of the Synod, Susamachar saw a change when the Rev. Cyril Paul was inducted as Minister in May 1990. He served for a seven-year period until April 1997. In May 1997, the Rev. Joy Abdul was inducted as Minister of Susamachar Church. She was the first female Presbyterian Minister to be trained locally and also the first female Minister to be appointed to Susamachar. This is indeed a milestone in Susamachar's 131-year history.
On 24th November 2002, Rev. Stephen A. Harripersad was inducted as Minister of the Susamachar Pastoral Region. Thus, Ministerial responsibility for the Church Extension Project fell on his shoulders. This young and dynamic Minister accepted the challenge as God's will for him.
Thus far, we can see the physical and material aspects of our efforts and labours. We are thankful, for the progress we have made. What is our spiritual outreach after 140 years since Rev. Kenneth J. Grant founded Susamachar? How many ministers has Susamachar produced? What are our dreams and visions? Whatever our aspirations may be, let us take time to be holy. Let us be ever thankful to God for our founder and the men and women who laid such a firm foundation. Let us concern ourselves with the most important task ~ to spread the good news of the salvation of man as promised by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!