Wesley Methodist Church, Alice Town
Bimini was permanently settled in 1804 by family engaged in the salvaged trade and subsistence fishing. These first settlers waited for ships “to come to grief ” on the many reefs and risk that surround Bimini and the salvaged goods would either be kept or taken o Nassau for auction. Life was not easy as shipwrecks were not regular occurrences and Bimini’s soil was not suitable for good farming.
It was the environment that the first Methodist ministers came to Bimini in 1858. A leader from Spanish Wells, Clem Pinder and a local preacher from Nassau made the trip to Bimini and by 1862 the congregation numbered 20 and the first Wesley Methodist church building was completed.
For many years the catechist was Charles Stephens, an Englishman, who nurtured the Methodist community until his death in 1909. Following Stephen’s death, Walter J. Saunders took responsibility for the becoming the first Bimini-born minister to do so. Saunders was also a school teacher and active in the community. He established the Bimini united Burial Society in 1903 which is the island’s oldest self-help organization with over 400 members. Saunders’s wife Louisa Kemp-Saunders took over the leadership of the church after his death in 1913 and earned a reputation of “Mother of the church”. With her death in 1956 full leadership fell to Fred Weech, Sr. who had long been involved in the church’s life as a local preacher. His outstanding contribution to the spiritual life of the members over a period of thirty and more years is noteworthy and despite his death on 1971, his name continues to command respect from the islanders who knew him as an honest, caring, God fearing man.
The great hurricane of 1926 destroyed the tiny church building but by 1928 a new building was constructed and it continues to be the spiritual centre of the Methodist community in Bimini. It is located on Queen’s Highway in Alice Town overlooking the sea. Adjacent to the church is a manse used by visiting clergy.
Over the years many members of the church have moved away and then church family continues to depend on visiting members and preachers. The goodwill of then congregations of Trinity and Ebenezer in Nassau help fund the transportation cost for these modern day “circuit riders”. The local church has been fortunate to have many ministers from the United States make use of the manse while visiting Bimini and conducting Sunday services. Sunday worship ministers to twenty or so people and the descendants of Walter Saunders and Louisa Kemp continue to worship here. Douglas Weech, son of Fred Weech, Sr. has served as Society Stewards and today Fred Weech’s youngest daughter Barbara Weech-Checkley serves in the capacity.
We thank God for his Many Blessings.
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