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From Moss Side to Montego Bay 

Whilst Jamaicans were celebrating their independence 50 years ago (6 August 1962) a Jamaican Baptist minister was doing some pioneering work in Manchester

From Moss Side to Montego Bay
In 1961 Moss Side Baptist Church in Manchester was a church with a proud history finding it hard to attract a new pastor. Their area superintendent, N B Jones, recommended a young Baptist minister who had recently graduated from Regents Park College, Oxford with a distinction, should go to the church as a short term measure. In January 1962, 25 year old Sam Reid moved with his wife Carmen to Moss Side becoming the first Jamaican minister ever in Manchester.

Beryl Goodwin, a member at what is now called Trinity Community Church, vividly remembers Sam coming to Moss Side. ‘I was very impressed with his deep Christian faith and strong conviction which enabled him to take up many challenges facing him and our church. Some people were not quite sure he would manage the situation but how wrong they were.’

In his three years at the church, Sam encouraged the church to be outward looking and to be involved in their community. ‘It was not surprising to see Sam on a cold winters day, carrying a bag of coal to elderly people,” say Beryl. Sam got the church members decorating old people’s homes and moved the pews into the school room to overcome a dry rot problem in the church. A road was named after Sam in Moss Side which illustrates his impact on the area. ‘He taught us that our church building was not as important as serving the people of Moss Side,’ say Beryl.

Sam had the ability to attract a range of people to the church and unite them. The population of Moss Side in the 1960s was a mixture of West Indian and English. A report on the church in The Baptist Times in November 1962 said ‘West Indians and Englishmen are truly brothers here... each element brings special gifts and attributes to the total task of ministry. And the bond between pastor and people has grown stronger throughout, as each has sought to encourage the other.’

In 1965 Sam and Carmen moved back to Jamaica where he became a prominent pastor and politician. Karl Johnson, General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, in a recent trip to the UK in May, described Sam as a ‘watershed’ in their Baptist history. Sam retired in 2003 and still lives in the Montego Bay area but sadly now has advanced dementia.

In 1962 Sam Reid was a pioneer in working in an inclusive way, something that is central to our life together today as Baptists. For Beryl, he was instrumental in their church’s history. ‘Although our church is very different now, Sam’s ministry was the beginning of why we are still here.’

This article originally appeared in Baptist Life magazine.
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