It was a memorable day on February 20, 1871 when Dr. Kenneth J. Grant started a school in a building known as the OLD THEATRE situated on Cipero Street. The spot was known as TOLLGATE and was well located for all the East Indian children in the town, and more so, at a point, which attracted a large number from the country. Church services were conducted in this building and steady progress was made in attendance of both the day school and Church services. From this humble beginning Susamachar Church started.
In 1872 Church services were moved to the first Susamachar Church Building on Coffee Street, San Fernando. When a subscription list was drawn up, the sum of Two Thousand and Sixty Dollars ($2,060.00) was collected for the Church Building to accommodate four hundred (400) persons. It was a wooden structure fifty feet by forty-five feet with a pitch pine floor. In front, on either side, was an imposing tower, capped by a dome. The Susamachar Presbyterian Church, the Church of “Good News” was dedicated on the 7th July 1872 by Rev. Kenneth K. Grant, the founder and first Minister.
As the work of the Church increased, a Board of five (5) Managers was organized in 1875 to assist in the business of the Church. A Session was later formed for the spiritual aspects of the work at Susamachar. In August 1875, Babu Lal Behari and Clarence Soodeen were ordained as the first two (2) East Indian Elders of Susamachar. In 1882, Rev. Lal Behari was ordained as a Minister of the Presbyterian Church. He was closely associated with Rev. Grant for thirty-five (35) years as “a pupil, assistant and teacher combined and a beloved colleague and trusted friend”.
Rev. Grant resigned in 1907 on the grounds of the failing health of Mrs. Grant and returned to Canada. Mrs. Grant died in 1912. The marble baptismal font placed near the Pulpit was presented by the Women of Susamachar in memory of Mrs. Grant. Rev. Angus Firth succeeded Rev. Grant. Unfortunately, he died of a tropical fever the same year.
By 1926, there was urgent need for a new Church building as the first building was too small for the growing congregation. A Building Committee was set up to raise money for this new project. The appeal for contributions had an excellent response. Plans and specifications were prepared by Mr. Maurice Accane, architect and builder. Mr. Emmanuel Lucky was awarded the contract to erect the new Church which was built at a total cost of Thirteen Thousand Dollars ($13,000.00).
The new Church Building was dedicated on the 27th May 1932 by Rev. J. A. Scrimgeour. The door of the building was opened by Miss Sylvin Grant, daughter of Rev. K. J. Grant. Rev. Victor B. Walls was the Preacher. Rev. James Clarke MacDonald was the Minister at that time.
Some Historical highlights are:
April 27, 1932: The Scottish Presbyterian Church of High Street, San Fernando, merged with Susamachar Presbyterian Church.
January 8, 1933: The Stained Glass Window depicting St. Paul’s First Missionary Journey was unveiled and dedicated. This was a gift from the late Thomas Geddes Grant in memory of his father, Rev. J. K. Grant.
May 3, 1933: The Manual Two-Pipe Organ was dedicated in memory of Rev. John Smith Wilson, the last serving Minister of the Scottish Presbyterian Church of High Street.
Other notable gifts from the Grant family include the Lectern, Pulpit, Communion Table, the Minister’s Chair, the Choir Stalls and the Electronic Chimes, which were dedicated on July 17, 1960. The Chimes Cabinet was donated by the Jagroop family in memory of their parents and dedicated on the same day.
The history of Susamachar would not be complete without some reference to Rev. Dr. James C. MacDonald. This teacher, scholar and theologian still lives in the hearts of many who worship at Susamachar. Susamachar’s growth owes much to his efforts and dedication to duty.
The first native Minister appointed to Susamachar was Rev. J. A. Ramjit in 1959. His ministry was fruitful and Susamachar lost a worthy son when he resigned in 1964 to take up an appointment in Canada. He served for five (5) years.
The new Church Hall, an imposing structure at the Carib Street entrance was built through the untiring efforts of the Board of Managers of which Dr. C. E. Hubah was Chairman. Funds were raised to finance this building through systematic giving by the Congregation by way of envelopes. The builder was Mr. A. C. Goberdhan who died during the construction of the Church Hall. The building was dedicated on June 29, 1963 by the Rt. Rev Cyril Beharry, B.A., B.D., Moderator of Synod, Rev. J. A. Ramjit conducted the service and Rev. Dr. J.C. MacDonald brought the message.