HISTORY OF ST. CHRISTOPHER ANGLICAN CHURCH, SIPARIA
The corner stone on the northern side of the church indicates that construction was completed on June 9th 1942, during the ministry of the Rev. Fr. Frederick Eve, who served in the parish from 1939 – 1943.
This original structure is now the chancel of the existing church which was extended during the ministry of the Rev. Fr. Frank Cooper.
The church was dedicated on 24th March 1943. The records show that the foundation stone was laid on July 6th 1923, thus proving that the completion in 1942 was the culminated effort of predecessors of Fr. Frederick Eve among whom were Archdeacon Banks and Canon J. Ramkessoon.
Among many gifts received were a cross made of Winchester Wood, a Processional Cope and a French Chalice from a parish priest in Wales.
In 1947 the Rev Fr. Frank Cooper was assigned to the parish. He served from 1947-1956 and during this time, extensive work was done in expanding the church to accommodate the growing congregation.
The Rev Fr. Basil Tonks succeeded Fr. Frank Cooper. During his ministry the concrete floor of the church was installed in 1957.
One of our Anglican Primary School was established in 1956. The present structure was completed in 1967. During the construction of the School pupils were accommodated at the church.
In the early history of the church many of the vestry members were executive employees of the oil company. This might explain the generosity afforded the church by these companies.
Plans for the new rectory were passed in November 1960 during Fr. Tonk’s ministry, but the building was constructed when Fr. Hayden Sobey arrived in the parish. Temporary housing was provided by the oil company at Beach Camp and Penal during the construction of the rectory.
A new vestry was built on the eastern end of the original church in 1952. The church was further extended to the west. This was a temporary structure using local forest materials – a long teak, thatched covered shed paved with oil sand.
Intensive efforts were made to complete this church which was dedicated to St. Christopher. Appeals were made to all parishes in Great Britain and the United States of America which were dedicated to St. Christopher. These brought little success. However, at parish level there was strong support for the venture. Efforts continued relentlessly through fund raising activities organized by members of the parish. Supplementing these initiatives were contributions received from oil companies. Trinidad Petroleum Development (TPD) and Shell Trinidad. Another support group was the ‘Friends of St. Christopher’, the brain child of the then parish priest. Members contributed $50 yearly to the funds. Church lands in Siparia Village were also sold to finance the project.
In 1950 the western wall was replaced by a Gothic Arch. It was also in 1950 that Fr. Cooper introduced the St. Christopher’s Travellers’ Rally which was geared to attract the travelling public with its emphasis on road safety. A corner stone dedicated to all travellers was laid in 16th March 1955, by the Governor Sir Hubert Elvin Rance. Work was not confined to expanding the physical structure of the church but extended into catering for the social needs of the parish. A parish hall was constructed in 1950. This was a wooden structure donated by an oil company. Fr. Cooper left the parish in 1956. Succeeding priests continued the tradition set by Fr. Cooper for celebrating St. Christopher Travellers Rally.
Some changes were made along the way so that the activities would be more relevant to the time.
Contributors to the building fund between 1947 – 1956 were:
- Shell Trinidad Trinidad Petroleum Development
- Courtesy Car club Imperial chemical Industries
- Friends of St. Christopher (Foreign and Local)
The following members of clergy have served the Parish: Fr. Richard Bateman, Canon Francis Ceasar, Fr. Clive Griffith, Fr. Augustine Joseph, Fr. Daniel Darko, Fr. John Rohim, Fr. Andy Moore, Fr. David Steel, Fr. Selwyn Nurse, Fr. Ashley Mungal, Bro. Derek Ford ssf, Fr. Emmanuel Aguwa, Dn. Michael Codrington, Fr. Anthony- Mowlah-Baksh and Fr. Aaron Charles.
Over the years, records show that a vibrant membership and working committee kept the church alive with ongoing work to the church building and also the spiritual growth of the congregation. The church at present is in need of major roof repairs and a complete electrical upgrade. Through the efforts of our dedicated parishioners we have raised $100,000.00 of the estimated $400,000.00 needed.
Through the years we were also blessed to have Deacon Michael E. Codrington who served faithfully for many years until his passing on 13th June 2011. Lay Ministers and members of Vestry, gave of their time and talent ensuring that the church of St. Christopher and by extent the parish, ran smoothly in the absence of a parish priest. Members of our vestry and parish continue to serve committees both on Regional and Diocesan level.
The following groups continue to be part of the Anglican Communion in the parish: The Mothers’ Union, the Guild of St. Raphael, the Sanctuary Guild, Men’s Ministry, Prayer and Counselling, Bible Study along with prayer groups at three of our five congregations. Weekday services incorporate discussions on the scripture readings for the day.
Saint Christopher – Is a martyr killed in the reign of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249–251) or alternatively under the Roman Emperor Maximinus II Dacian (reigned 308–313). There appears to be confusion due to the similarity in names “Decius” and “Dacian”. However his veneration only appears late in Christian tradition, and did not become widespread in the Western Church until theLate Middle Ages, although churches and monasteries were named after him by the 7th century.
That Christopher’s name, meaning “Christ-bearer”, foretells his adult life may give a clue that his story lacks a precise historical origin. He may be the same figure as Saint Menas. His most famous legend, which is mainly known from the West and may draw from Ancient Greek mythology, tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians.