The history of the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist Church parallels that of ancient Israel from the call of Abraham the Patriarch through the Exodus to Canaan and in the sharp similarity in the geography of the area with that of Palestine.
As the word of the Lord came to Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees, so did many of the inhabitants residing in the city of Kingston where they worked and worshipped. They obeyed and responded to the call to get out by faith into the land of Portmore, St. Catherine.
The struggle had begun with many commuting to the city daily and on Sabbaths by public transportation, a tedious and challenging experience. Others worshipped in a small Gregory Park church, which soon proved inadequate to accommodate the phenomenal growth of Portmore due to urban sprawl.
The necessity and demands for a church in the area grew stronger. A call was made for all the Seventh-day Adventists in Portmore to meet at Lot 364, Passage Fort, the house of Bro. Harold Sookie on January 12, 1977.
Pastor D.E. Kent and K.C. Henry Conference representatives met with members and the decision was taken that the group be named the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist Church and that the first Sabbath service be held on January 22, 1977.
The faith of the brethren was tremendous. Although there was no church building, nevertheless they set the date in faith believing that God would provide a place right on time. God did reward their faith and the Port Henderson Community Centre became available between the hours of 9:00a.m to 12:00 noon on Sabbaths.
You would have had to be at that first church service to understand the thrill, the indescribable thrill that the worshippers felt as they journeyed towards the cut-stone building. The walking feet seemed to be responding to the rhythm of the great Christian hymn ‘Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to war with the cross of Jesus Going on before Christ the royal master Leads against the foe Forward into battle See his banners go!’
As the worshippers entered the stone-cut building, the very presence of the Lord hallowed the place; all experienced the feeling a sweet, sweet spirit in the place as Sis. Yvonne Gregory opened her mouth to utter the first words and there was joy unspeakable for, here in Portmore, history was made, as the flag of Adventism was unfurled. Sabbath May 14, 1977 saw the formal organization of the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist church by the then President of the Central Jamaica Conference, Pastor Edwin Hyatt. Twenty-four members whose membership had been received from their former churches were noted to become the 171st (excluding the Conference church) in Central Jamaica Conference. The following Sunday, fourteen persons were baptized at the sea and the Portmore Church from this small beginning, like little drops of water was to come forth with oceans of souls for God's kingdom.
The early days were characterized by love and oneness. This was no exaggeration. Portmore Church became synonymous with caring, sharing and helping. So many activities were done by young and old together. Sharing the faith, cooking in the open outdoor, praying together, conducting outreach programmes together, visiting shut-ins together even crying together. The `church with a difference', `the church in the wilderness'; whatever the name chosen, Portmore had a unity which stands in the memory of every one who experienced it.
There are other memories too. Treasured memories. We cannot forget the enthusiasm of the first leader Bro. Harold Sookie. We recall citizens with table tennis rackets in hand at the doors of the community centre where we worshipped, waiting to enter as we left at noon.
We remember the months of AY meetings in the open air, over the mountains, in the plains, by the sea, anywhere nature could provide. One can never forget the torrents of rain, which fell the very first afternoon, AY meeting was held in the Port Henderson All Age School building. This was the first time the rain fell during all those outdoor AY meetings. What a mighty God we serve! He held back the showers of rain until we found shelter.
Time would fail meme to tell of the many faithful ones. The choir under the direction of Bro. Griffiths blurted their strains of melodious music Sabbath after Sabbath.
The early member of Portmore at home and abroad hoped and prayed for the day to come when we would have a church building.
Pastor D. Kent was the first pastor; others in their turn have been associated with him between 1977 and 1979. Pastor Allen-Haye stayed about three months in 1979 and Pastor Orlando Moncrieffe worked approximately a year between 1979 and 1980. In 1980 Pastor Kent returned to oversee the circuit until Pastor Joseph Hutchinson arrived. He served until 1983 when he was succeeded by Pastor D. Tracey who served until 1983 when he was succeeded by Pastor D. Tracey who served to 1984. Pastor Hutchinson retuned in 1984 and remained until 1986. Each pastor has had his district personality and each has left his mark in a different way.
Special mention must be made of the local elders who have carried on the hard work of leading the churches in the absence of the Pastors. Among these are Brothers Harold Sookie, Leon Romeo, Neville Williams, Gladwin Hall, Fitz Millington, Donald Walters, Leslie Mair, Alton Thomas and Sister Yvonne Gregory.
Probably the two words often chanted in Portmore over the years were Evangelism and land. Portmore had neither land nor church building of its own yet evangelistic endeavours took priority over church building or land. When the question was asked, “where will the people from the evangelistic effort be housed?” The answer always came back “The Lord will provide”. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Daniel is able to provide for his work. SUCH FAITH!
Decentralization of the Sunday, Wednesday and Friday night meetings from Passagefort to Braeton, Independence City and Waterford brought home vividly to the attention of the church members that there was a need for a greater out-reach programme.
Before Portmore was formed, the Newland Company (later to become Portmore’s adopted daughter) launched a crusade in Newland. Portmore conducted crusades in Newland and Braeton 1978 and 1979: in Braeton, Waterford and Portsmouth 1980 and in Braeton 1981. The first big tent crusade was held in Marine Park in 1982. On December12, the Braeton Church and the Newland church were organized. In 1984 following a tent crusade, Waterford Seventh-day Adventist Church was formed.
Each evangelistic effort resulted in an influx of members in the Portmore Church. The Community Centre was by now bursting at the seams and worshipping at Portmore during this time meant sitting outside on rocks with the sun streaming down, or sitting on a wall across the street with the public roadway in between or sitting outside in the parked vehicles near the church building or the children sitting on the floor in a nearby building. The Edgewater Tent Crusade conducted in early 1985 by Pastor Saunders (from New York) resulted in more additions and this time Portmore Church had to find another place to worship. The Church on the Rocks at the Port Henderson Community Centre just could not suffice.
It was then that the members acquired the use of the Bridgeport Secondary School (now Bridgeport Comprehensive High School) as their new place of worship; we expressed gratitude to the school’s administration for the use of the building. Over the years, members had been conscious of God’s leading of the Portmore Church but no one ever dreamt that when the first leader Bro. Sookie launched the church building fund in 1977 that it would have taken nine years to acquire land. These were years of prayer, fasting, sacrifice, tears and hard work for land. At least six sites were looked at in the hope of procuring land. One site was actually cleared but they all vanished like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No answer to our prayers came. Then sometime in 1984, the Member of Parliament, Mr. Kingsley was approached on the subject of land. He directed these inquires to a Mr. L. Barton. Soon something was happening and after months of negotiations, the Portmore church had a church spot.
Two acres of land were purchased by the sacrifice of the members, friends and well-wishers. To the Members of Parliament, the sellers of the land, the negotiators, to those who prayed and worked and to all those who had any part in making the land possible and to Bro. Gooden and the concerned Committee for Christian Education for their interest and tangible support. God knows why the delay was necessary. The ground breaking ceremony was held on April 19, 1986 and in the words of Sister Eunice Gregory who witnessed the event, “We thank God for our being able to stand on this land,” t the ground breaking ceremony. In His infinite wisdom and knowledge He guided our nine years of wanderings and had brought us to this place. We’ve come thus far by faith, Leaning on the Lord, Trusting in his Hold Word; He’s never failed as yet, O, we cant’s turn back, We’ve come this far by faith.
It was not until January 1989 that the construction of the church building actually started. During this time worship services were still being held at the Bridgeport Secondary School specifically in an area called, “the Dome”, so named because the structure actually has the shape of a large dome. The worship services were spiritual and the fellowship was sweet. Needless to say there was no lack of members; the place was packed every Sabbath. On July, 1989, the joy of all, the first Sabbath services were held in our church building, though this structure was only temporary one with walls built partial out of concrete and partly from board with no windows and doors. Members were overjoyed to have a roof over their heads. This was indeed home at last and with pride and joy under the leadership of Pastor Kerr, members of the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist Church lifted their hearts and voices in one accord in a service of praise and thanksgiving that first Sabbath in Joyful shouts of praise. They acknowledged the Lord’s leading and fulfilment of His promise to always take care of His own. The church continued to grow in leaps and bounds. Members joined forces in extending the love of Christ through monthly health clinics by the Health Departments and other outreach and evangelistic programmes initiated by the Community Services & Lay Activities Departments.
Pastor Claude Brown took over the Pastorate of the Portmore Circuit of Churches in 1989. By this time there were five churches namely, Braeton, Newland, Gregory Park, Waterford and Portmore (called the mother church). During this period, housing development in Portmore continued at a phenomenal rate as housing schemes sprang up all around. Schemes such as Bridgeview, West Bay, and the more recent Greater Portmore to name a few. The harvest field was indeed great and coupled with this, many Seventh-day Adventists migrating to Portmore from the city, found it necessary to join the church community in Portmore. Pastor Brown immediately recognized the need for a larger building to house the “Mother Church”. A new phase of construction commenced on the church building. This say a new plan being implemented, plans for a much larger building (considered the largest in this vicinity of the conference). A revitalized church membership under the leadership of Pastor Brown took up the challenge with great fervour and with much sacrifice and the continued blessings of the Lord, expanded the old temporary structure a much larger one. At the 1995 conference session, the Portmore circuit of churches was divided into two districts, Portmore Braeton Districts). Pastor Claude Brown continued to be the Pastor of the Portmore district along with Waterford and Gregory Park. The church membership then was 500 members and it grew daily. The most recent conference session in 1998 divided the circuit into three districts, twinning Portmore and Newland, pastored by Claude Brown. The dynamic growth of the Portmore area is explosive, achieving atomic proportions with the new addition of yet another daughter, Tent City Church. This new born babe came as a result of the labour pains endured by the concerted, cooperative effort of the six churches in the area:. Portmore, Gregory Park, Braeton, Hellshire, Waterford and Newland in the “We Shall Behold Him 2000 Crusade” with Evangelist Fitz Henry.