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Senior Minister of Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle, speaks from the pulpit of the popular St. Andrew Church.
Photo: Rudranath Fraser

Senior Minister of the Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle, has come of age as a minister.

Having attained 21 years of ordination to the sacrament of the Word and Ministry, he has left an indelible mark on the lives he has touched along his journey.

In his early years at the Mount Olivet United Church in Manchester, Rev. Carlyle harboured no thought of becoming a pastor, but instead had his sights set on studying law.

This was the trajectory that he followed up to his first year in community college, as he prepared to sit the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level exams. However, the calling on his life to ministry was so overwhelming that he responded without delay.

“There was this tugging on my heart for serving within the church of Jesus Christ,” Rev Carlyle says, adding that this was solidified when he received a prophecy at the age of 17 from a stranger at a prayer meeting.

“He picked me out of the crowd and began to speak some things into my life concerning my guiding people into the Kingdom of Christ and speaking to thousands of persons. That was just mind-blowing for me,” he adds.

Senior Minister of Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle, was conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander, for contribution to Religion and Community Development.

 

That conversation was followed by other experiences that were similar in nature, and this culminated with the Guidance Counsellor at Knox Community College, where he was a student at the time, telling him that the Lord had been placing him on his heart concerning ministry, and asking if he had ever considered it.

Once he had completed his studies at Knox, he pursued pastoral studies, through the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Rev. Carlyle says church members at Mt. Olivet, such as Ms. Adina Jones, Mrs. Meg Davis, Mrs. Linette Duncan and Mrs. Grace Campbell, positively influenced his life as a young man, as well as his own mother, Ms. Zenel Chronicle, whom he describes as a stalwart in his life.

He credits Mount Olivet Primary School for giving him a firm foundation, after which he attended Knox College (high school) and Knox Community College.

His first opportunity to lead a congregation came when he was placed at Greendale United Church upon graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a diploma in Ministerial Formation from the United Theological College of the West Indies.

“That is where life took on a fantastic meaning. If ever a pastor can fall in love with anybody other than their wife, that is the congregation that won my heart. That was the congregation in which I cut my teeth in ministry. That is the congregation that really helped me to identify and develop my gifts,” Rev. Carlyle states.

“That was the congregation that taught me how not only to build a sanctuary but also build a church and allow for a church’s relevance to be connected with community. That is the place where I learned how to be human in the truest sense of the word,” he adds.

The senior minister recalls that at the time, the Greendale congregation had the arduous task with only 90 members to build a sanctuary that would cost $25 million.

“By great faith and diligence, the people of God identified different means of raising the resources, whilst growing the numbers of the church,” the clergyman notes.

Rev. Carlyle is also proud of the relationship that the congregation has engendered within the community and the example that was set for community engagement.

“I was one of the few pastors who could go into any of the communities in the surrounding area walking by foot at any time of night, even though there were warring factions. I knew personally all the dons, and if they knew that I was coming, not only would they put away their machines but the guys would ensure that food is prepared for Rev, because Rev is coming,” he recalls.

Senior Minister of Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle.

 

It was during seminary, while assigned to St. John’s United Church in Hannah Town, Rev Carlyle explains, that he learned from his then supervisor, Rev. L. Christopher Mason, how to just reason with the guys on the corner, understanding that some people will never come to church.

“How do we take good news to them? How do we find out where they are, and see how using the resources at a church we can help their lives to become better?” Rev. Carlyle reasons.

He praises his mother, a teacher, who he says is now in her 84th year of life and still has a very sharp mind, for her example of speaking English “in ways that are just so captivating”.

This, he says, motivated him to emulate her. He recalls doing elocutions from as early as age six and proudly attributes his desire to speak in ways that people can connect with, to his mother’s guidance.

Against this background, Rev. Carlyle says it was just natural for him to return to the classroom to read for a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the UWI, as he sought to impart the word of God with excellence, clarity and creativity.

Senior Minister of Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle (background, left), prays with children from the Webster Memorial Basic School. Also participating in the prayer is Principal of the School, Mrs. Kay-Ann Russell-Temple.

 

The senior pastor says he loves his current congregation at Webster Memorial tremendously.

“Webster, for me has proven to be a church with a multiplicity of gifts and talents. Every single resource you need for the work of ministry is to be found there,” Rev. Carlyle states.

He says it was very daunting at first for him to go to Webster, which is considered the flagship congregation of the United Church.

“I am keenly aware of all my foibles; I know that by virtue of the church having the standards that it has, I was not yet ready for it, but then, God in His grace, saw it fit for me to be there,” Rev. Carlyle states.

He credits the congregation for being so welcoming and helping to mould him into what he is becoming, while thanking them “for the 12 years they have put up with me”.

Rev. Carlyle says he would be just as comfortable with a small congregation of 25 people, as he is at Webster with more than 1,200 members. Webster also oversees two congregations in Llandewy and Ramble in St. Thomas.

The senior minister sits on various boards, including the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Kingston Public Hospital and Victoria Jubilee Hospital, and up to July 2022, the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal.

He is the chaplain for the St. Andrew High and Preparatory Schools, Medical Associates Hospital and the National Solid Waste Management Authority and has in the past offered chaplaincy care to Sagicor Group of Companies and Flow Jamaica Ltd.

He highlights the unwavering support of his family “who willingly lends me to this world”.

“I celebrate my wife; she stands as a rock in my life, and I liken her to that gentle stream that flows through the forests of my life, nurturing everything there, and I thank God for her and for my children Abigail and Khaeron,” Rev. Carlyle states. Meanwhile, the Senior Minister reiterates that ministry is a calling and that “it is not a job”.

“The financial reward is not great but over these 21 years of ministry, God has provided. Where He gives a vision, He makes the provision, and whomever He calls He sustains,” he states.

“One of the first things I want people to know is that I’m a person before I’m a parson. I’m human. I love to enjoy time with friends, family and just be real with myself. These are the things I do to rejuvenate my soul and settle my mind because the demands are great,” he adds.

Rev. Carlyle was conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander on National Heroes Day and was one of 221 Jamaicans who were honoured for outstanding contribution to nation-building.

Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen (left), presents Senior Minister of Webster Memorial United Church, Rev. Astor Carlyle, with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander during the Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards at King’s House in Kingston on October 17.

 

The Senior Minister admits to wrestling with himself about whether he was deserving of the National Honour.

He was, however, reminded by the Lord that “the recipient of a gift has no power over being chosen to be gifted. It is the ultimate prerogative of the giver to determine the worthiness of the recipient”.

“I am deeply humbled that people of this great nation see in me traits and contributions worthy of celebration, and so I gladly receive it on behalf of my colleagues, many of whom will work without recognition or human reward,” Rev. Carlyle says.

“I receive it on behalf of my family, who shares me with the world willingly, I receive it on behalf of my flock at Webster, who understands that our ministry is beyond the walls, and I receive it on behalf of my friends who help me to remain human. I receive this honour, not necessarily for work done but more so as an accountability piece for the work that still needs to be done,” he further states.

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