The Reformed Faith in St Lucia
St Lucia today is dominated by the Catholic Church, but Baptist work started during the mid-1940s with missionaries from Baptist Mid-Missions of North Carolina, USA. Several churches were established, including First Baptist Church in the main city Castries, Grace Baptist Church in the community of Bexon, and Patience Church in the village of Anse-la-Raye.
By the time the missionaries departed, seven churches had been established in the northern part of the island, a Bible school had been built in the neighbouring islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and a number of young men trained at that school were ministering in some of those churches.
Doctrinally these churches were Arminian and dispensational and, sadly, their doctrinal position has hindered the teaching of the doctrines of grace in the churches in St Lucia more than anything else.
Doctrines of grace
The doctrines of grace were first introduced to St Lucia by Joseph Fevrier who was invited by the missionaries to become pastor of Bexon Grace Baptist Church in the early 1970s. Joseph had been trained at Barry Bible College in South Wales. At the time of his calling he was assistant pastor at the East London Tabernacle in London, UK. His convictions were Calvinistic and amillennial.
When he accepted the pastorate of Castries First Baptist Church in 1976, his teaching came under intense scrutiny and First Baptist Church experienced intense internal struggles. This resulted in some members leaving and the church having to withdraw from the Association of Baptist Churches, of which it was a founding member.
However, under his leadership the Reformed faith prevailed and a number of young men came to embrace the doctrines of grace – including the current pastor of Bexon Grace Baptist Church, Malcolm Scholar, and Peter Samuel, pastor of Patience Baptist Church at Anse la Raye.
Today, out of a total of seventeen Baptist churches in St Lucia, four are Reformed – namely, First Baptist at Castries, Grace Baptist at Bexon, Patience Baptist at Anse la Raye, and Berean Baptist Church at Vieux Fort.
The Reformed work in St Lucia faces considerable challenges, not least through smallness and a relative lack of resources.
The Calvinistic/Arminian divide continues to be a challenge, yet the various Baptist pastors have a good relationship with each other. Fellowship at an ecclesiastical level is discouraged, yet ties between members of the Reformed churches and members of other Baptist churches are still strong. The need for a Reformed teaching ministry remains urgent.
Pastors in St Lucia need to deal faithfully with issues concerning worship and gospel preaching to counteract the current trends in churches towards entertainment worship, neglect of the Word of God, and decreasing evangelism. However, resources for evangelistic programmes are scarce and it is difficult for pastors to acquire good books for essential reading and study.
St Lucia is a bilingual society, yet few pastors possess enough fluency in Creole to communicate the gospel effectively in that language. Peter Samuel has sought to address this problem by teaching Creole in the churches and making available a Creole translation of the New Testament, which he helped to translate from the Greek.
A considerable challenge to gospel progress is posed by local hostility to evangelism. In the village of Anse-la-Raye for example, Patience Baptist Church (Reformed) is seen as a threat by Roman Catholics and every effort has been made to destroy its ministry. All kinds of strategies have been adopted to discourage children from attending Sunday school and youth meetings.
These disruptive efforts include denying Catholic sacraments to children attending Baptist Sunday school and to their parents, and deliberately hosting activities to coincide with Sunday school events.
At Bexon, the Reformed Grace Baptist Church faces hostility from Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah Witnesses, whose headquarters is based in that area.
However, opportunities for preaching the gospel and doing evangelistic work in St Lucia are good. It is possible to preach in the open air without obtaining government approval and to visit homes to share the gospel.
It is also possible to amplify services through loudspeakers outside churches so that services can be transmitted to large numbers of people. At market stalls, Bibles, books and tracts are sold at subsidised prices or given away.
Pastor Samuel conducts a daily devotional radio programme in Creole through a local government radio station. His church also has a Reformed book ministry in which good literature is made available at low cost. The Reformed churches are planning to cooperate in publishing good gospel tracts free of charge to the public.
The pastors and elders of St Lucia’s Reformed churches meet twice a month for prayer and fellowship. Contacts have been developed with Reformed churches in Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada, and this cooperation has resulted in the establishment of the Bunyan Institute of Theological Studies (BITS). It is hoped that BITS will help provide training for local church leaders and host Reformed conferences and other events.
This year the Reformed churches in St Lucia, in association with those of Trinidad & Tobago, will be hosting a leaders’ conference that will be addressed by Christopher Buss, Assistant Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.
We covet the prayers of the Lord’s people so that the preaching of the true gospel of grace will continue in St Lucia.
Malcolm Scholar and Peter Samuel