Monthly Archives: August 2014

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August 29, 2014 · 11:52

More on my old Church – Greyfriars, Port of Spain

from the Trinidad Express


‘I felt compelled to buy Greyfriars’

By \\\\\ Michelle Loubon

Port of Spain businessman/Natrust Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) Alfred Galy said a team comprising an architect and an engineer will advise him on the future of Greyfriars Church of Scotland, on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, by mid-September. He also said the National Trust should prioritise which buildings it intended to save since it was virtually impossible to save all the dilapidated historical edifices.

Galy also said he felt compelled to purchase Greyfriars Church since he is a patron of the arts, appreciates fine architecture and aesthetics.
Greyfriars shot into the spotlight after the Presbyterian community, historians and conservationists feared the edifice would be destroyed. The Trust issued a statement indicating the building will be listed ‘afforded protected status’. But the process is tedious and requires surveys, valuations and planning.
Interviewed at his Frederick Street office yesterday, Galy, 84, said: “I have an architect and an engineer looking at it. They will get back to me by mid-September. They will advise us on the way forward. I can’t disclose their names right now. In due course, everything will come out.”
Asked about Greyfriars cost, Galy added: “We bought it at market price. It was no deal. I can’t give the exact figures. Anybody who has an idea about real estate would have an idea about the market prices. I am the middle man. I bought it for a company. I can’t say which company. I can’t disclose too much yet.”
Sharing his sentiments on the church, Galy said: “I am not responsible for it. The church is derelict. The congregation left it. There was nobody to pay the stipend which might have gone to the upkeep. Maybe it was because of health and safety issues. Maybe they lost their faith in God. Everybody ran for cover. I know they fixed up St Ann’s Church of Scotland on Charlotte Street real nice. Inside they did a lot of work.”
Galy likened the church to a sick patient.
He said: “It costs to upkeep a sick person. At one point, you might have to pull the plug. The church is derelict. It is very expensive to upkeep a derelict building.”
Asked about his particular interest in Greyfriars, Galy said he has always been a devotee of the arts.
“I commissioned the late sculptor Pat Chu Foon to do a piece for Trinity College. I paid him $15,000. I had a copper designed by Conrad Rogers from Belmont. He is now living at Diego Martin. It is in my office and it features the elements like Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. “
Galy developed a passion for the church. He said: “I used to pass there as a boy on my way to St Mary’s College. I used to hear a lot of singing and music. The hall would be decked out at Christmas time.”
But he noticed a falling away at Greyfriars. Galy said: “About 10 years ago, not an ants.”
Asked if he had ever worshipped there or attended an event, Galy said: “No. I am a Roman Catholic. The site is strategic. It is more than 120 years old.”
Turning his attention to the National Trust, Galy said: “Not all buildings are good for restoration. The Trust has to understand they cannot save everything. Some of the buildings artists have to draw drawings, put the dates and say these buildings were once part of our landscape.”
Galy added: “Queens’ Royal College (QRC) is a beautifully restored building. I know the Anglican Church (Rev Claude Berkley) is struggling with Hayes Court. Restoration is expensive. Stollmeyer’s Castle is there about 35 to 40 years and they are not fixing it. Mille Fleurs is in need of work.”
He said the Port of Spain hospital’s architecture should be salvaged.
“Gut the inside of the building, fix it but keep it. It is a beautiful building,” said Galy.
When contacted yesterday, Dr Rodger Samuel, Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration, said: “I met with the Trust and the Ministry and the National Trust will be looking into the matter.”
 ‘Derelict’ Greyfriars
Meanwhile, passersby and motorists would have noticed contemporary Greyfriars does not have any window panes, mortar is falling from the blocks and electrical fixtures have been destroyed. While the back gate is closed, the front fence is overgrown with vegetation and the entire building is in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. Pigeons frolic on the rooftop and vagrants sometimes sit outside the entrance begging for alms.

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A Homily preached on the Sunday, following the death of Robin Williams (Dumfries Northwest, 17 August 2014)

Mark 5:21 to 24; 35 to 43  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.


35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

We begin with a tragedy.  A young lassie has died. Her family are stunned, and shocked,

Then Jesus appears.  He brings her back to life

Those in the room are, we are told, are  effectively “gobsmacked”

I would guess that they are standing there – like statues – , immobile, not having a clue what to do, bewildered and mute

I’d like to think that Jesus then breaks the ice with some practical advice – he almost jokingly says in effect – Come On!  You’ve seen the miracle – NOW, for pity’s sake, give the lassie something to eat!  Don’t forget she’s a twelve year old, and at that age, she’ll be ravenous!

And grief is turned to joy!  And they would, no doubt, begin to rejoice, their relieved faces beaming with  laughter

What  a tonic laughter is.

We all heard last week of the untimely death of the actor and comedian, Robin Williams.  His was a troubled life – like so many of those who have made us laugh…the tragic clown.

I’m no psychologist, but perhaps he brought such joy to others was a way of compensating for the darkness in his personal life.

But he was a good and caring man, giving so much of himself to others, many of them strangers. He lifted their spirits, he was a great humanitarian, his charity giving is legendary.



Of all the tributes paid to him, I particularly like this story.  He was a very close friend of the actor, Christopher Reeve – remember…. he played Superman.

After being thrown from a horse, and suffering a cervical spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down, Reeve was in a great deal of pain at the hospital.

He even contemplated suicide. Since the accident had damaged his first and second cervical vertebrae, Reeve was forced to undergo a life-threatening surgery to reconnect his skull and his spine.

In his autobiography he wrote:

“As the day of the operation drew closer, it became more and more painful and frightening to contemplate,” .

 “In spite of efforts to protect me from the truth, I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts.

 Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent.

 He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately.

My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged.

But it was Robin Williams.

And for the first time since the accident, I laughed.

 My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”


In an interview later, Chris Reeves said:  “I knew then: if I could laugh, I could live.









Jesus wept. We know that because the Bible tells us so. But did he laugh?


God thunders, often. We know that. But does God have a sense of humour? 

God celebrated creation with a booming “That’s good!” But did the creation God called “good” include mirth and laughter? Hilarity and glee? What about jollity and smiles? 


What a low opinion of humour Christians have tended to have over the years. 


Through the centuries, how many artists have painted a LAUGHING Christ?

Can those who would be Christ -like laugh and  not sin ? 

The Second Council of Constance in 1418 had a definite opinion: it assigned to hell any minister or monk who spoke “jocular words such as to provoke laughter.”

And yet…..

The early Christians were known as the “Hilares” – the happy people – and of course our English word “hilarious” is derived from it.


Remember too what Paul wrote, “. Be fools for Christ because the foolishness of God is much greater than the wisdom of humans.”



Humour and religion have a long history together.

Remember the story of Abraham and Sara, when God told the 90-year-old woman she would conceive? And she doubled up with laughter. The Lord heard it, and chuckled himself, and said, Abraham, your wife shall indeed bear you a son, and you must call him Isaac, which means ‘Laughter.’



God and the Angels visit Abraham DE GELDER (1685)


The radical Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

And, if I can’t laugh, I don’t want to be part of this religion.

Laughter is something everyone does. All ages, all classes, all cultures—we all laugh. We even share the ability to laugh with other animals. Apparently,  Rats laugh when  tickled…. I’ll take the experts at their word!  (unless Neil wants to bring in a sack of them, as a visual and tactile aid for the Children’s Story one Sunday!)

Chimpanzees tickle each other, laugh and giggle. They, too, share their laughter.

Children laugh an average of 400 times a day. Adults only laugh about 15 times

The laughter of children is one of the most endearing rewards of parenthood. It is our payback for all those midnight feeds and nappy changes.


Given our limited time, how can we make the very most of it?  We can enjoy and we can bring joy. We can rise above suffering with compassion, and with laughter.

We can share our joys and share our laughter. . . . We can laugh at ourselves, for blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused.

We can find one another. Then we can draw on our spirit of joy and laughter—we may never understand ourselves, we will never understand the world, but we can learn, endure and share the sacred enjoyment of each others company.

Let’s be aware of  how laughter heals our spirit and think of the happiness and joy it can bring to others.

And remember these words of Marcel Proust:

Let us be grateful to those who make us happy, for they are the charming gardeners of our souls.



A closing story:


An ordinary sort of bloke died and felt rather uneasy about divine judgement on his life which had been pretty uneventful.

In heaven, there was a queue in front of him, so he settled down to look and listen.

After consulting his big book, Christ said to the first man in the queue: “I see here that I was hungry and you fed me.  Good man – in you come!”

To the second, he said “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink – come on in to Heaven” and to the third, “I was in prison and you visited me”  And so it went on.

As each person entered heave, our friend realised that he’d never fed the hungry, visited the prisoner or the sick – none of these things.

Then his turn came – sick to the stomach, he watched Christ leaf through the pages of the book.


“There’s not much written here, but you did do something: when I was sad and discouraged, you came and told me funny stories, made me laugh and cheered me up.  Welcome – enter into the joy of your Lord”



Remember Christopher Reeve’s words: 


If I can laugh; I can live


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Greyfriars Church of Scotland – Update

National Trust moves to protect historic Greyfriars Church

By the Multimedia Desk – from the Trinidad Express

THE historic Greyfriars Church of Scotland, in Port of Spain, reportedly sold recently to a private developer, is in the process of being listed by the National Trust, which will give it legal protection.
Conservationists have reacted with alarm over the news that the church would to demolished, with a social media campaign and appeal to have the State step in.
In a press statement yesterday, the Council of the National Trust “noted the public’s concern regarding the sale of one of our architectural treasures, Greyfriars Church of Scotland located on Frederick Street, Port of Spain”.
According to the National Trust: “Prior to its sale the National Trust through its member and technical advisor, the Historical Restoration Unit, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, advised the Town and Country Planning Division as to how this property should be managed as one of our built heritage monuments, in keeping with conservation guidelines. The building is on the Trust inventory and is soon to be listed by law.The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago is established by law (Act 11 of 1991, amended by 31 of 1999), to oversee the preservation of our built and natural heritage. The major responsibilities of the Trust include the following:-
– Listing and acquiring such heritage property as the Trust deems appropriate;
– Permanently preserving lands that are heritage sites and as far as practicable retaining their natural features and conserving the animal and plant life;
– Preserving, maintaining, repairing and servicing or, arranging for the preservation of heritage property and where such property comprises buildings, augmenting the amenities of such buildings and their surroundings;
– Making provision for the access to and enjoyment of heritage property by the public;
– Encouraging research into heritage property;
– Making the public aware of the importance of our heritage;
– Advising Government on the care of our heritage

The Greyfriars Church of Scotland, is one such heritage property identified on the National Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage as an historical site. It is also one of the sites which is in the process of being listed by law. Once listed, in accordance with Section 8 of the National Trust Act (No. 11 of 1991 and Amendment No. 31 of 1999) the property is deemed a heritage property and is entitled to legal protection.

The first minister, Rev. Alexander Kennedy of Greyfriars Secession Church, Glasgow, arrived in Trinidad on 25 January, 1836 to begin a mission to the newly emancipated Africans. At that time, there were in the town of Port of Spain, the Roman Catholic Church (Immaculate Conception), Church of England (Trinity) and a Wesleyan chapel (now Hanover Methodist Church). Rev. Kennedy opened the first place of worship on 25 September, the same year. This building, soon discarded, was on Cambridge Street (formerly, the section of present day St. Vincent Street from Park Street to Oxford Street). The first moves to build a church in Port-of-Spain were in 1837. The building commenced on 10 April, 1837, with the first service being held on 10 January, 1838. It then opened under the historic name of Greyfriars on 25 January.

The National Trust considers it a matter of great significance to protect and preserve this monument of our heritage and wishes to assure the public that it is working assiduously to safeguard our nation’s heritage.

In addition, the Trust wishes to urge citizens to be aware of other historical structures in their community which may be added to the National Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The Trust encourages all Trinidadians and Tobagonians to join with us in preserving our heritage in any way possible. It is incumbent upon this generation to preserve all aspects of our heritage for the benefit of future generations”.

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Greyfriars Church of Scotland, Port of Spain

So saddened to read this today.  I was Minister here from 1979 until 1983, and have many happy memories of pastoring this flock of wonderful people


from “Scottish”

National Trust criticised as Greyfriars Church of Scotland is sold for demolition

Greyfriars Church of Scotland, Port of Spain

The Greyfriars Church of Scotland on Frede­rick Street, Port of Spain, has reportedly been sold to a private developer, and there is growing concern the building, which dates back to the 1800s, will be torn down.

There is also anger the National Trust did not move to list the church, which would have given it legal protection against such a fate.
And the family of one of the first reverends to minister at the church wants to know what will become of the graves of their ancestors, and of the church contents, which holds a part of Trinidad’s colonial history.

In the church are the memorial tablets commemorating the work of Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie, as well as congregatio­ners who fell during the two World Wars. The graves of three children are on the compound, which is located near Woodford Square, the Red House, Public Library building and Trinity Cathedr­al. The church was the subject of a painting by Trinidad and Tobago’s famed artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon, in 1970.

According to the record, the church site at Frederick Street was bought for £300 and the foundation stone in April, 1837, completed at a cost of £4,858 and opened for public worship in January, 1838.

The church was named “Greyfriars” after the mother church in Glasgow, Scotland.



Greyfriars church sold

Story Updated: Aug 14, 2014

THE Greyfriars Church of Scotland on Frede­rick Street, Port of Spain, has reportedly been sold to a private developer, and there is growing concern the building, which dates back to the 1800s, will be torn down. There is also anger the National Trust did not move to list the church, which would have given it legal protection against such a fate. And the family of one of the first reverends to minister at the church wants to know what will become of the graves of their ancestors, and of the church contents, which holds a part of Trinidad’s colonial history. In the church are the memorial tablets commemorating the work of Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie, as well as congregatio­ners who fell during the two World Wars. The graves of three children are on the compound, which is located near Woodford Square, the Red House, Public Library building and Trinity Cathedr­al. The church was the subject of a painting by Trinidad and Tobago’s famed artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon, in 1970. According to the record, the church site at Frederick Street was bought for £300 and the foundation stone in April, 1837, completed at a cost of £4,858 and opened for public worship in January, 1838. The church was named “Greyfriars” after the mother church in Glasgow, Scotland. Three years later, a manse was built next to the church for its reverend, Alexander Kennedy, who was succeeded by Rev George Brodie, who died in 1875. Historian/researcher Angelo Bissessarsingh also expressed alarm over the sale. Descendant of Rev Brodie Jennifer De Verteuil described the sale the church as tantamount to a death in the family, and that her sister, Susan Parkinson, was also saddened by the development. The Church has reportedly been sold to a Port of Spain businessman with multiple properties in the city. The businessman could not be contacted for comment last evening. SIDE BAR – Jennifer De Verteuil, in an email to the Express said: Our ancestor Rev. George Brodie served as second Minister at Greyfriars’ Church of Scotland from his arrival from Scotland 1840 to his death in 1875. He did move to Arouca to found a second Church of Scotland there but that period was relatively short-lived. His obituary in the Port of Spain Gazette speaks for itself. We have always been closely associated with Greyfriars. My sisters and I were baptised Anglicans but our family was run along democratic lines so we alternated: Greyfriars’ one Sunday /St. Crispin’s Anglican in Woodbrook (my mother’s church) the next Sunday but the Greyfriars Sunday school was considered appropriate so I think we may well have gone there more often. The cynics will remind us that this is valuable real estate, that the congregation had fallen off over the years and that the building is in poor shape but surely there is some feeling for our country’s heritage here. Woodford Square is the heart and soul of Port of Spain. On the south side there is Trinity Cathedral, on the western side the Red House, on the north, that beautiful but so little considered Public Library building and finally on the eastern side, the Greyfriars’ Church of Scotland. What a shocker it was to learn that this has not been listed as part of the National Trust buildings deserving protection. With some imagination this could be preserved as a monument to the part the Scots community played in our history. Even if doesn’t function as a church it is a wonderful space which could so easily lend itself for concerts and other public gatherings. This is another terrible day in this land of philistines. It is like a bad dream. What will replace the church hall and the church itself? I pray not another glass-fronted monstrosity, centrally air-conditioned to match so much of what has been allowed to spoil the flavour of Port of Spain. If that were to be the case, it would be the proof that we are continuing our descent into a soulless, heartless, materialistic madhouse. My father and his brother, great grandsons of Reverend Brodie and elders in the church for much of their adult life, must be turning in their graves.

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The Pope Jokes….

Addressing engaged couples on Valentine’s Day at St.Peter’s Square

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Following the commemorations of one hundred years since the outbreak of a ‘war to end all wars’, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is urging recognition of the fact the world is not at peace and far too many people today are seeking to survive bombs, bullets, tear gas, and terror from conflict and war. This is sharply focussed in the conflict that exists in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, is asking “How can the people of Gaza become good neighbours unless they are released from the oppression under which they exist?”  The Moderator’s full statement on behalf of Church of Scotland reads:  “In the face of the particular tragedy of Gaza, and the disturbing loss of so many civilian lives, the Church of Scotland actively engages with its local contacts in the region and seeks to support and amplify their efforts in seeking a just and lasting peace for all the people.  The Church of Scotland remains committed, through prayer and action, to a just and sustained peace in Israel and Palestine, and continues to uphold all people there in prayer. The Church joins with others in welcoming any genuine cease-fire in Gaza, by Israel or its opposing combatants, and we urge that it continues. Only an end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the firing of missiles into Israel from Gaza will lead to conditions from which a just resolution may come.  However, this is only the first step towards tackling the humanitarian disaster for the people of Gaza. With others, especially the Churches agency Christian Aid, we recognise without an end to the Israeli Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which has been in place since 1967, there can be no full and lasting peace for either Palestine or Israel. The Occupation must end.  The Church of Scotland is calling for these immediate actions:  The Church calls for the blockade of Gaza by Israel to end and for the normal movement of people and goods in and out of the territory to resume. Initial priority should be given to much needed relief measures.  The Church calls for sustained peace negotiations which should include all local parties and for the international community to work as honest brokers. These negotiations should seek a secure country for Israelis and a viable homeland for the Palestinian people.  Gaza is smaller than the island of Arran, yet its population is larger than that of Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. On one interpretation it is the world’s largest prison camp. There is no place for people to hide.  The scandal of suffering in Gaza will only be alleviated through the full, committed and fair-minded engagement of the international community, especially the United States of America, along with the other members of the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the EU and Russia) working with all the local and regional parties to start peace-building measures. We look to our own UK Government to play a full and committed part in this.”

The Moderator hopes that even at this stage something hopeful can arise from the despair of this current conflict.  Things you can do:  The churches’ agency in international relief and development is Christian Aid and we can support its Gaza appeal:  Christian Aid Gaza appeal  The World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel takes place annually in September. Join in with your church and highlight the justice issues in your church and community. World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel  On the 24th of every month, the Action of Churches Together (ACT) Palestine has called the world to pray with the Christians in Palestine and Israel, for all in these lands, Either join and organised one, or create an opportunity in your church: Pray for Peace in the Middle East   The Church of Scotland’s contacts in the region include the Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, YMCA, YWCA, Near East Council of Churches, Sabeel Theology Centre, Lutheran World Federation, Rabbis for Human Rights, B’t selem, and others.

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A Weedgieland Wedding

At a Govan wedding reception the D.J. yelled…
“Would all married men please stand next to the one person who has made your life worth living.”

— The barman was almost crushed to death.

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Just back from an excellent service at Dumfries Northwest Church, where four of us shared the conduct of worship.

The Scripture Reading (and the theme) was the New Testament story of Zacchaeus.

It reminded me of a story concerning Charles Spurgeon and a student in training for the ministry



Part of the training involved  the students preaching before their fellow classmates.

Spurgeon would call a student to the front of the class, hand him a text, and ask him to preach on it.

Once, the selected student stood up in front of the class and said, “I have been given the New Testament passage: Luke 19, verses 1-10.

“There are three things I would like to point out about Zacchaeus:

“I would like to say in the first place, he was a little man and so am I.

“I would remark in the second place, he was up a tree and so am I.

“And I would emphasize in the third place, he made haste and came down and so will I.”

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100 days – Day 98: The Joys of Ministry

100 DAYS

100 days – Day 98: The Joys of Ministry

At the end of last year, I agreed to conduct the marriage service for a bride who works in my old place of business – the wedding to take place a week today.

Looking through my diary last night to check next week’s workload, I came across the event – but with no time written in.

Phoned…. the conversation was “Hello, it’s Sandy Strachan.  Is everything still OK for next Friday?” And she hung up on me!

Tried again, and her phone – indeed for the rest of the evening – was on voice mail mode.

I’ve just been in touch with the Registrar….. and, surprise! surprise!… the wedding is still on for next Friday; all the paperwork has been handed in…… BUT, surprise!  Somebody else is now conducting the ceremony!

Whatever happened to courtesy, good manners, and truthfulness?

Oh, the…

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