In 1786, Richard Allen, a former slave who had purchased his freedom and was a religious leader in the black community, had begun preaching frequently at the St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia. The message that he had for his people was a message of hope. He brought others with him to worship at St. George. As more black people became inspired by the preaching of Richard Allen, more came to the church and in time the number became vast. The drastic increase in number prompted the church officials to designate seats in a specific area of the church for the black worshippers and later, to other places less desirable. Harsh and unkind treatment of the black parishioners led to Richard Allen leaving St. George in 1787. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E. Church) formally a denomination in 1816.
In the year 1885, The Bermuda Annual Conference was created. In 1916 the Lighthouse Mission was started at Angel Steps and was lead by Rev. Stovell. In 1922 a group of energetic worshippers attending the Lighthouse Mission (at the beginning of Riviera Estate Road, a stone’s throw from our present facility) expressed to the Bermuda Annual Conference through Presiding Elder Askew, of their desire to build a church. Contact was made with officers of the Church Body No. 1 (Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church) and after much discussion it was decided that another branch of the A.M.E. Church be established at the east end of Southampton, this church was to be recorded as “Body No. 2.”
The founding members of the Lighthouse Mission were Bro. Alexander Wilson, Bro. Eldon Raynor, Bro. John Simons, Bro. John E. Smith, Sis. Rosalie Smith, Bro. and Sis. George Bassett, Sis. Louisa Burrows, Sis. Hattie Lowe, Sis. Daisy Lovell, Sis. Hezekiah Davis, Sis. Eliza Simons. The Lighthouse Mission lasted for almost 10 years when under the leadership of Rev. R. J. Stovell, Pastor of the Lighthouse Mission, the church was erected on property generously given to the body by Bro. John Henry Simons. Records show that on the 19th of January 1923 Lot No. 51 was transferred from Bro. John Henry Simons to Body No. 2. Sis. Louisa Burrows and Bro. Christopher Smith suggested that the new church be named after the Rt. Rev. W. T. Vernon who had recently been elected and consecrated a Bishop in the A.M.E. Church: All agreed. On May 23, 1926 the members of Vernon Temple marched from Lighthouse Mission to the new Church for dedication services conducted by the Rt. Rev. W. T. Vernon, D.D.L.
1923 Negotiations with the Bermuda Annual Conference.
1926 Vernon Temple was built by the Rev. Stovell who did a lot of the masonry and was the first pastor. Rev. DeShield of St. Luke was the carpenter. The church was dedicated Bishop William T. Vernon. Pulpit and benches were donated from St. Phillips Church when they were moved from Tuckers Town. The church was mortgaged for £600 in February.
1928 Rev. F.A. Lapsley appointed pastor
1932 Rev. R.J. Stovell re-appointed pastor.
1933 First foreign minister from U.S.A. the Rev. A.A. Medica. During his Pastorate our Male Voice Choir, together with Richard Allen, and Allen Temple, formed a “100 Male Voice Choir” and staged concerts throughout the island.
1934 Rev. F. A. Lapsley re-appointed pastor.
1941 Rev. C. A. Darrell appointed pastor.
1942 Rev. J. S. Johnston appointed pastor.
1943 Rev. Eugenius Stowe formed the Senior Choir. Mr. George A. Williams M.C.P. (Member of Colonial Parliament) donated the property for the parsonage which was an undersized lot in the Sunnyside Park area. Consequently the parsonage was not built on this lot of land. When the church deemed it necessary this lot of land was sold.
1944 Senior Choir was formed by Rev. Eugenius Stowe, Pastor under the direction of the late Brother John Smith, assisted by the late Brother Leslie Simons. Property given for the parsonage by Mr. George A. Williams M.C.P. (Member of Colonial Parliament).
1949 Rev. R. J. Stovell re-appointed pastor. The mortgage was burned on the church with the financial assistance of Rev. Stovell and Bro. Christopher (these men paid the £125 that was owing on the mortgage). Rev. Stovell and Bro. Smith were later reimbursed by the local Missionary Society.
1953 Rev. Thomas W. Foster, first salaried pastor. Rev. Foster was an inspiring preacher, and a hard worker, he inspired many things to happen at Vernon Temple. Firstly, the basement of the Church was excavated, mostly by manual labour of the pastor, members and friends. Next the kitchen and the bathroom facilities were provided at the northern end of the basement. The labour was fruitful and proved an asset to our Church family and to the community, especially on Saturday nights when religious movies were shown.
Rev. Foster wrote and produced a play “A man called Allen”, which was staged at the Bermudiana Theatre, two recitals were also staged at the Theatre during his administration, and one of Bermuda’s largest boats was chartered during the summer and moonlight for cruises. A religious book store was initiated by Rev. Foster and shelved about every book on African Methodism, Black History, Bibles, Hymnals, Cards, etc. He also negotiated for the purchase of a cottage in front of the Church for a Parsonage. Many dynamic personalities were seen and heard throughout the Island through the contact of Rev. Foster. To name a few: Dr. George Singleton, who was Editor of the A.M.E. Review, Dr. Milton S. J. Wright an Economics professor (first black man to have an audience with Adolph Hitler), Roland Hayes, the world’s most renowned concert personality and Dorothy Overholt, the blind lyric soprano, Dr. Rembrandt Stokes the Dean of Wilberforce University, who was became President and also became elected to the Bishopric.
1956 Rev. R.W. Coleman appointed pastor. During his Pastorate the Parsonage was renovated and the contractor was Mr. L.L. Newton Butterfield. Rev. Coleman returned home to Alberquerque, Mexico to claim his bride and was the first to take up residence in the new Parsonage. To this union a daughter “Princess” was born, another first in our Pastors’ home. Mrs. Coleman would supply refreshments to the men who were conducting the renovations. Rev. Coleman wrote and produced a play “Alien’s Way” and staged several recitals. During Rev. Coleman’s Pastorate, the Church celebrated “Church Anniversary” with a souvenir booklet and banquet.
Later in the history of the Church, while Rev. Coleman was still with us and upon his inspiration, a group of the men of the Church purchased a property opposite the parsonage which¬¬¬ was renovated. Mrs. Coleman would supply refreshments to the men who were conducting the renovations. This building came to house two stores on the first level and apartments on the upper floor and was named “The Summit”. From this venture the men made generous contributions to the Church.
1960 Rev. W. Johnson appointed pastor.
1961 Rev. W.L. Cody came to us from the Philadelphia area and during his administration once again Vernon Temple was able to raise sufficient funds to completely free the Church of debt. Rev. Cody was a dynamic Preacher and had a wonderful personality. While he was with us, an additional tank was added to the parsonage, the top of which is used to form a front porch, enclosed with decorative blocks, he also had plans drawn up for an addition to the northern side of the church.
1964 Under the leadership of Rev. Donald Tucker the church renovated and expanded, including the addition of cedar pews and alter railing which was built by Samuel Thomas. The cedar was donated by Foster “Speedy” Ming. Included in the renovations was the construction of the divided chancel which was donated by Reginald Burrows, Sr. Presiding Elder Lowe donated the altar. Bro. Daniel Augustus was the contractor for these renovations and expansions.
To defray the cost incurred during the renovations, the Members of Vernon Temple pledged financial aid to liquidate the indebtedness without holding social functions of any kind. One Sunday morning on December 5th, 1965, after the sanctuary had been completed, a mysterious fire of unknown origin, completely destroyed the Altar Boys room and robes and the stairway leading to the newly constructed balcony. The dense smoke darkened the beautiful white walls of the interior making the labourers work appear to have been in vain. However, despite this terrible setback, Church services were held that day praising God that more damage was not done. Fortunately, the insurance on the Church covered the damage. With all the damage repaired the Church rose from the smoke and ashes and gorged onward to become a greater Spiritual Temple. The dedication of the newly renovated Church was dedicated by the late Rt. Rev. John D. Bright, D.D.LLD., our presiding Bishop. Many guests were in attendance; among them were the Governor of Bermuda, His Excellency Lord Martonmere and Lady Martonmere and the A.D.C.
Rev. Donald L. Tucker was a dynamic preacher and a forceful leader, he reactivated Class leaders, Altar Boys and set up instruction classes and Catechism classes, two more Usher Boards and another Choir was added. The entire sanctuary was completely renovated with a new divided chancellor, sound proof room, balcony, terrazzo front entrance, cedar pews, Lectern and new Pulpit benches, complete new lighting, new frames, Stewardess rooms, cloak room and a new kitchen. Extensive work was done to accomplish the completion of a much needed parking lot.
Provident Trust-Bermuda Commercial bank was started in 1965 when Mr. Walter J. Seymour, conceived the idea of forming a savings and loans group at Vernon Temple. The purpose of this savings and loans was so that people of limited means could pool their resources to assist one another. Initially Bro. Walter Seymour felt that the men of the church were taking too long to make a decision about starting the bank and wanted to start without them. Rev. Tucker suggested to Bro. Seymour that he should take time to think about that decision and it was best to start the bank with the men of the church as one unit. The men of the church at the time were involved in the Billy Graham Crusade which engaged the men’s attention temporarily. Bro. Seymour decided to follow Rev. Tucker’s advice and waited for the men of the church to be organized to form the Provident Trust – Bermuda Commercial bank.
1966 - The 80th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference, from March the 27th, to April 3rd, 1966 was hosted by Vernon Temple. On Sunday the closing session was held at the Rosebank Theatre. The year 1966 saw the birth of the east and west districts of the Bermuda Annual Conference and our Pastor The Rev. Donald Louis Tucker, was appointed Presiding Elder of the west, with Rev. Hewley Hinds as Presiding Elder of the east district.
1968 - Rev. Joseph Parker was appointed and during his pastorate the Youth Choir was revitalized, under the direction of Mrs. Lois Parker, many concerts were staged throughout the Island and in 1969 Rev. & Mrs. Parker accompanied the choir on a tour to the U.S.A. Prior to the tour, the Youth were presented in a “Musical Soiree” at the Samuel David Robinson Memorial Hall. While Rev. Parker was at Vernon, Bro. Samuel Hayward was made an evangelist under the late Bishop J.D. Bright.
1970 - Rev. John E. Brandon instituted the Central Treasury and reactivated the Class Leadership system. It was in this year that Rev. Erskine Simons and Rev. Samuel S. Hayward were called to ministry. Pastor Rev. John E. Brandon was one of the organizers of the Bermudians for Reconciliation Organization. This organization was concerned with the high cost of living for the average working person.
1974 - Hosting of the 88th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference.
1975 - Rev. Charles E. Martin placed emphasis on encouraging the youth of the A.M.E. Church, also plans for the new extension were blueprinted.
1976 - Rev. P. Crawford appointed pastor.
1977 - Rev. Louis A.C. Davis reorganised the Youth Choir. Church extension was completed and dedicated. The Central Treasury System was reorganized.
1978 - Hosting of the 92nd Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference.
1980 - Rev. Noah F. Merrill and Mrs. Sonya Merrill came to lead this growing congregation to higher heights. Pastor Merrill was a great preacher, teacher and administrator. He and his wife both showed a great love for the Lord and the people of Vernon Temple.
During his administration we reactivated our Class Leaders. The following were instituted: Men’s Club and Christian Women in Action, Bible Study, Ministers in Training Workshops, the Young Adult Fellowship, single Parents and Marriage Encounters group and Instruction Classes, were major teaching mediums for our members. The mission work of the Church expanded to overseas areas. Many souls were won and added to the Lamb’s Book of Life. An Inter-Church Training Institute was conducted where the following subjects were taught: The Bible, Evangelism, Worship, Church Policy and Counselling.
1981 Four Lay Persons were called into full time Ministry: Revs. Larry Hall, Earlston DeSilva, Nicolene Durham & Ruth Vanlowe Smith.
1982 The Temple Comes to You first aired. Six former Pastors returned for Thanksgiving and Praise: Rev. Thomas Wendell Foster, Rev. Rudolph Coleman, Rev. William L. Cody, Rev. Donald L. Tucker, Rev. John E. Brandon, Rev. Charles Martin.
1983 Purchase of Organ, Piano and Sound System and also Sound-Room.
1984 Xerox Machine and Typewriter. Container of clothing sent to Jamaica W.I.; and money to purchase a car for the Pastor in Jamaica. Also money was raised to purchase beds for an orphanage in Haiti.
1985 Services were held at Heron Bay School while new flooring, carpet and windows were installed to enhance Vernon Temple Sanctuary. Also interior painting and Ladies and Gents restrooms were renovated. The garage at the parsonage was converted into a guest-room, kitchen renovated, and furnishings were purchased. Hosting of the 99th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference.
1986 Rev. Dr. Conway Simmons (Presiding Elder) lead the congregation in the purchasing of the cottage at the north end of the parking lot. The restrooms were completely renovated and the lower hall panelled. The morning services were broadcast live. Two persons answered the call to ministry: Rev. Esther Douglas and Licentiate Sis. Linda Powell.
1993 Rev. Christopher P. L. Haynes appointed and hosted the 108th Session of the Bermuda Annual Conference. A new parsonage purchased and renovation were made to the church kitchen and office.
1996 Vernon Temple Child Care Nursery opened its doors in March. Rev. Erskine Simons was instrumental in the installation of air-conditioning in the sanctuary.
1997 Rev. Howard Dill was appointed pastor and during his time the property next to the church was purchased and this is where the new parsonage is located. The Body and Soul Ministry began, the YAN was revived, two young people (Jamar Dill and Alex Butterfield) won the Youth of the Year Award, the Tender Loving Care Ministry began and young people were a part of Rotary Exchange and Foreign Missions. The Temple light choir was formed. The parsonage was refurbished and the church building was upgraded. The Child Care Center was air-conditioned.
2006 Rev. Pedro Castro was appointed as Pastor of Vernon Temple. The Church fellowship hall was tiled and painted. The old Nursery building was renovated and converted into the church Administration Office which includes the Pastor’s Study, Conference room, Church office, Lounge, Kitchen and Village Pride office. There is also the Market Place and Transformation ministries (Power Breakfast at CedarBridge Academy, Power Lunch at Speciality Grill & Cinema, Seniors Monthly Luncheon, Kings Kids Ministry, Men’s Prison Ministry, Women and Men’s Ministry at the Salvation Army Shelters, After-School Tutorial program).
Vernon Temple A.M.E. Church
Dedicated May 26, 1926
Rev. R.J. StoveIl - 1926
Rev. F.A. Lapsley 1928
Rev. R.H. Tobitt ????
Rev. R. J. Stovell 1932
Rev. A.A. Medica – 1933
Rev. E.A. Lapsley - 1934
Rev. C.A. Darrell - 1941
Rev. J.S. Johnston - 1942
Rev. E. Stowe - 1943
Rev. R.J. StoveIl – 1949
Rev. T. W. Foster - 1953
Rev. R. W. Coleman - 1956
Rev. W. Johnson - 1960
Rev. W.L. Cody - 1961
Rev. D.L. Tucker - 1964
Rev. R.J. Parker - 1968
Rev. J.E. Brandon - 1970
Rev. C.E. Martin – 1975
Rev. P. Crawford – 1976
Rev. Louis A.C. Davis – 1977
Rev. Noah E. MerriIl - 1980
Rev. Dr. C.M. Simmons 1986
Rev. C.P.L. Haynes1993
Rev. H.L. Dill - 1997
Rev. Pedro A. Castro Jr. - 2006
Rev. Dr. Leonard Santucci - 2013
Other Pastors and Ministers out of Vernon Temple
1. Presiding Elder Rev. Vernon I.F. Lowe. Rev.
2. Dr. Harry Watson
3. Rev. Dr. Samuel Eugene Hayward
4. Rev. Earlston DeSilva
5. Rev. Nicolene Durham
6. Rev. Ruth Desta VanLowe Smith, J.P.
7. Rev. Linda Powell*
8. Rev. Deborah Hall-Waters
9. Rev. Georgette Prime-Godwin
1. Rev. Esther Douglas
2. Rev. Leon Allen Kirk Jennings
Deceased Itinerant Elders
1. Rev. Larry Hall
2. Rev. Samuel S. Hayward**
Deceased Local Elders
1. Rev. Thomas B. Price
2. Rev. Erskine Dudley Simons
*Withdrew from the AME Church Connection
** Re-obligated from office of Local Elder to pastor Mt. Zion AME Church, Southampton, Bermuda