The Ethiopian Church in the Caribbean
Trinidad & Tobago
In 1952 the Ethiopian Orthodox church was established in Trinidad and Tobago by Rev.Abba Gabre Eyesus Meshesha and Ato Abera Jembere. Since the late 1940's and early 1950's there had existed an vibrant local organization called the African Nationalist Movement. It was led by it's president David Modeste and his assistant Garnet Springer, both of whom were later ordained deacons in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. These brothers along with other pioneers, taught the Yoruba language and lectured to the people about Africa. They later were in contact with the Garveyites of Jamaica, also they contacted and invited Arthur Mar Lukas, a Ghanaian of Nigerian citizenship. He came to them and became their bishop. He then began to preach and baptize in Trinidad,Tobago and Guyana in the name of the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church. In 1951 the leaders of the movement wrote to Fr. Gabre Eyesus Hailu, an Ethiopian citizen but a Catholic priest. on invitation he visited Trinidad and Tobago and assisted them in their organization. When the people found out that Bishop Arthur was not really connected with the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Ethiopia, they sent him along with Garnet Springer to Ethiopia. They left carrying a memorandum from the people of Trinidad and Tobago to the Ethiopian Orthodox church Patriarchcate in Ethiopia requesting the church to establish branches in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Western Hemisphere.(Yesehaq, 198)
On December 16,1952, these two messengers returned to Trinidad and Tobago accompanied by His Grace Abuna Athanasius (Rev.Abba Gabre Eyesus Meshesha) and Ato Abera Jembere, former secretary of the Ethiopian government minister's council. They came prepared with all things vital to the running of an Ethiopian Orthodox church. In 1959 His Holiness Abuna Theophilos, then assistant patriarch of Ethiopia visited the West. He ordained two priests Kes Gabre Eyesus Turner and Kes Henry Blake of Tobago, along with six deacons and six assistant deacons. He also consecrated churches in various places and encouraged the formation of church bodies like the women's organization.
Today there are thousands of members and numerous churches in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, Medhane Alem, Arouca; Holy Trinity, Port of Spain; Saint Philip, Sangre Grande; Saint Michael,Mayaro; Saint Mark, Claxton Bay; Saint Peter, San Fernando; Saint Matthew, Siparia; Saint George, Point Fortin, Holy Trinity, Scarborough, Tobago; and Saint Michael, Belle Garden, Tobago.
From the beginning the father of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago the Rt. Hon. Dr.Eric Eustace Williams, welcomed the establishment of the church in this beautiful land. The governments of Trinidad and Tobago gave three acres of land for the construction of a cathedral in Port of Spain. In 1982 a new church Medhane Alem (Savior of the World), was dedicated and consecrated by His Eminence Abuna Yesehaq at Arouca, Trinidad. There were thousands of people in attendance, including the president of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Dr. Ellis Clarke, The Honourable Dr. Cuthbert Joseph, who laid the cornerstone on behalf of the prime-minister of the republic, the Honourable Mr. George Michael Chambers and the Honourable Mr. John S. Donaldson, then minister of national security and honourary consultant to the Fifth Western Hemisphere Conference of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The dedication of Medhane Alem Church coincided with the official opening of this conference. (Yesehaq, 193)