The history of Jamaica is closely bound to the Church, which continues to be a cultural and social centre for many rural communities. The Establishment church was the Church of England, though the Scottish origins of many planters meant that the more-numerous Presbyterian Church (now combined with the Moravian Church as the United Church in Jamaica and The Cayman Islands) also carried out the official functions of recording births, marriages and deaths. The 18th century was an active period for religious "Dissenters" or "Reformers" or "Non-Conformists"-depending whose side you were on- and the first missionaries were the Moravians, together with the Waldensians, in 1754, followed by Wesleyan Methodists and later by the Baptists. They taught Christianity to the slaves and later took part in the emancipation struggle. The first step in the emancipation process was the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 after a long fight to win the support of the British people. A primary advocate in the British House of Commons was the Baptist William Wilberforce, who was to move his resolution for the abolition of the slave trade year after year from 1792 to 1807. One of the key players in Trelawny was the Baptist, Rev. William Knibb: he was born on 8th Sept 1803 in Kettering, Northampton, England and eventually moved to Falmouth in 1830. He and the Baptist Church were responsible for creating a number of free villages, including Alps, and probably Sherwood. The Roman Catholic church came on the scene in 1870 when Charles Moulton-Barrett of Retreat built a church at Refuge to give spiritual service to the number of Portuguese living in the area. The Jewish faith was also represented in the area, as demonstrated by the Jewish graveyard in Falmouth. Other churches have appeared more recently with the Congregational Church at First Hill in around 1900 and others such as the Seventh Day Adventists from around the 1930’s.
European society is often non-religious, particularly when compared to North America, but the Church has been so important to the historical development of western society and particularly to the emancipation movement, that many visitors will be interested by the high density of competing denominations in Jamaica and by the way in which the churches were integral to helping build the post-Emancipation society. In addition, churches within each denominations should be able to link together to provide, say, a week-long tour of that denomination’s churches with appropriate fund-raising activities.
Almost every Cockpit Country community has one or more churches and it should be possible for congregations to work with the church to receive visitors and give them a feel for the church’s importance to community life.