Moravian Church Honours Three Pioneers


The Moravian Church in Jamaica is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as part of its celebrations, the church, in collaboration with the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, has launched a commemorative stamp series to honour posthumously, three of its stalwarts.
Reverend Dr. Selvin Uriah Hastings, Rev. Walter Malton O’Meally and Mary Morris Knibb are featured on the stamps in recognition of their long and distinguished service to the Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Jamaican society.
Selvin Uriah Hastings was born in Darliston, Westmoreland on September 26, 1916 and was the first native Bishop of the Moravian Church of Jamaica. Rev. Ashley Smith, who wrote the introduction to Hasting’s book of sermons entitled: ‘These 50 Years’ (1991), described the Bishop as being among the giants of the history of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Hastings received his early training in theology at St. Colm’s Theological College in the United Kingdom, after which he served at the Springfield congregation in St. Elizabeth, Mizpah in Manchester and Redeemer and Trinity in Kingston.
He later furthered his theological training in the United States where he gained a Bachelor’s degree from Butler University and a Masters degree from the Union Theological Seminary.
In 1951, he was elected to the Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC), the Executive Board of the Moravian Church. Ten years later, in 1961, he was elected Bishop of the Moravian Unity.
While still a Bishop, Hastings was appointed President of the PEC, member of the church’s Unity Board and was elected to the board of the Moravian Church Foundation.
In 1967, he was appointed as the church’s official representative to the Executive Board of the Worldwide Moravian Church, where he served as chairman until 1974 and was General Director from 1972 to 1974.
Bishop Hastings’ distinguished career resulted in him serving as President of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) between 1960 and 1963 and later in 1971. He was at the forefront of the JCC’S appeal for the educational development of western Kingston, which raised a significant amount of money for the establishment of basic schools and adult educational centres.
He also served as Chairman of the Church Union Commission, which discussed the possibility of union between the Moravians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists and Disciples of Christ. Hastings was also the first Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United Theological College (UTC), which was set up as a union of three antecedent institutions in 1966. He also served as a lecturer in Homiletics, Church History and Church Administration at the College.
Educator, Theologian, Ecumenist and civil leader, his illustrious career culminated with him being awarded the Doctor of Divinity Degree by Moravian Theological Seminary (1990) and the Commander of the Order of Distinction (1989). Bishop Hastings died on September 19, 1991. The Moravian Church has also established a Foundation in his honour.
The second pioneer to be featured on the postal stamp is Reverend Walter Malton O’Meally, who had a distinguished teaching career after his graduation from the Moravian Teachers’ College for men in 1899. O’Meally hosted the inaugural meeting of the Jamaica Progressive League in 1938 and is one of its founding members.
During this time, he was at the Church of the Redeemer in Kingston and was the first local to serve an urban congregation.
In 1951, O’Meally was elected the first native president of the Provisional PEC of the Moravian Church. He was among the first locals to be given a leadership position in the Moravian Church after the departure of the colonialists in 1954.
This was regarded as a major achievement in the context of the colonial system that existed in Jamaica at the time, as major leadership positions held by blacks were very rare. His presidency is therefore a clear testimony to his progressive ideas and leadership acumen, which were honed in the communities of Westmoreland, Manchester and St. Elizabeth, where he worked earlier as teacher and minister. He served in congregations at Christiana, Carisbrook, Broadleaf, Mizpah, Beaufort, as well as in Kingston.
O’Meally also served as chairman of the Westmoreland Parish Council and was a Justice of the Peace. He was honoured for his long and faithful service to the Government of Jamaica in various capacities when he was presented with a medal by Her Majesty the Queen. This was certainly indicative of his contribution to nation building and to his church.
Mary Morris Knibb M.B.E is the third honouree to be featured on the commemorative postal stamps. A pioneer in many regards, Morris Knibb rose to become the first elected woman representative of the Moravian Church in Jamaica. She continued her ascendancy when she became the first female councillor of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and this major accomplishment was attributed to her established record of civic leadership and commitment to excellence.
Her leadership endeavours continued when she became President of the Women’s Liberal Club, which included the likes of Molly Huggins, Edith Clarke and Amy Bailey. Morris Knibb was a champion of women’s rights in Jamaica and was at the forefront of women’s struggle for the right to vote. Her leadership aspirations and ambitions saw her becoming the vice president and co-founder of the Moravian Women’s Fellow. She later became the founder of the Shortwood Teacher’s College Alumni Association.
It is said that her greatest achievement was being the founder and manager of the Morris Knibb Preparatory School. Many, who have passed through the school, continue to speak of the strong influence she has had on their formative years. The church hall at the Redeemer Moravian Church and the extension college on the grounds of Morris Knibb Preparatory, are seen as edifices of her philosophy of self-reliance and development.
The Moravian Church and the Jamaican society were recipients of Morris Knibb’s leadership, managerial and fiduciary competencies as manifested in her creation of a deaconess fund for the church, designed to promote leadership among girls. Her legacy has survived and continues to create leaders in the society, 40 years after her death.
The Moravian Church in Jamaica salutes and acknowledges the unselfish, tireless and outstanding contributions of these three pioneers in the advancement of the church and the Jamaican society.

JIS Social