VICTORIA PARK CAMPAIGN
The year of 1967 was eventful even to its very close. Ralph invited the evangelist, V. P. Black of Mobile, Alabama, to come to St. Vincent and preach for two weeks in a gospel campaign. He also asked him to bring along as many other workers as possible. In the meantime on the home scene, the Vincentians began to plan for the campaign. Posters were printed and placed in conspicuous spots. Victoria Park in Kingstown was the chosen site for the nightly preaching. Permission to use the park for the crusade was requested and granted. Friends and neighbors were invited. Finally the workers from the United States arrived. The party consisted of V. P. Black and nine other preachers, along with one preacher's wife. However, even before the campaign began, there was vocal opposition from a certain segment of the populace. On the posters was stated the place, time and speaker of the campaign. It was also stated that the speaker was an evangelist from Mobile, Alabama. It so happened that at that time there was much trouble between the blacks and whites in Alabama. A certain radical group in Kingstown resented the coming of those white preachers to the island. They emphasized the fact that V. P. Black was from Alabama. This, they noted from the posters. However, the Christians were undaunted by their remarks and continued with their preparation for the crusade.
When the campaign started late in November, the crowd which attended on the first night was far below the expected attendance. The Pentecostals had had campaigns in that same park with tremendous crowds each night. In the Pentecostals' campaigns, there were occasions on which the crowd would number close to one thousand. However, they used musical instruments in their campaigns and claimed to be able to work miracles, which things in themselves served to attract many who attended. On the first night, therefore, when only about one hundred people showed up, the Vincentians were somewhat disappointed.
Those who opposed the coming of the white preachers to the island were not content to simply voice their feelings, but took the matter further. On about the second night of the campaign, they came to the park where the campaign was being conducted and openly demonstrated against the meeting. Victoria Park was somewhat of a stadium where the local (and sometimes inter-island) football and cricket matches were played. Thus there was a playing field along with a pavilion in the park.
On about the second night of the crusade, everyone was shocked when a group of young men went to the park and picketed the meeting. The meeting had started. The audience had sung and the preacher had just begun his lesson for the night. He stood facing the audience which was seated in the pavilion, thus his back was turned toward the playing field. Those who were in the pavilion saw the car as it entered through the northern gate of the park. It was driven onto the playing field. No one really paid much attention to it. The preacher did not see the car and if he had, would not have given it a second thought. However, there emerged from the car a few young men carrying placards on which were written racist slogans, such as: "White man, go back to Alabama," and other such slogans. They simply stood around the car holding up the placards so that the audience could see the messages printed on them.
Everyone was shocked to say the least. Never before in the history of the island had a gospel meeting been picketed. However, it must be stated that there was no violence at all that night nor on any succeeding night of the campaign. It was rumored on the day following that the men violently disrupted the meeting, taking away the microphone from the preacher. However, no such thing occurred. They did not approach the audience nor the platform on which the preacher stood, but stayed out on the playing field and held up their placards. The preacher kept on preaching unaware of what was happening until he glanced behind him and saw the pickets, and even then, he showed no sign of alarm but kept on preaching. The following night there were policemen on the grounds in the park. The meeting progressed smoothly to its close with no further disturbance.
The American workers stayed on for about two weeks and preached every night except on Saturday nights. However, at the close of the campaign, there were only three baptisms as a direct result of the preaching and one other baptism due to personal evangelism done by two American workers. So all in all, the campaign yielded a total of four conversions. However the attendance each night was considerably smaller than the first night and the night on which the meeting was picketed. Of the four baptized, two soon fell away, but the other two remained very faithful in worshipping with the congregation in Kingstown. The two who remained faithful were an older man, Cassey Davis, who has since died, and a younger woman, Veronica John, who still worships with the Kingstown church.
Before the U.S. workers came to St. Vincent, Ralph realized the need for a church building in Kingstown. He was able to locate an old dwelling house in Kingstown Park. This house was owned by an old family whose ancestors were English colonizers. All the family had died except one old man who lived in the house by himself. It was rumored that he had said that when he died, he would like a church to meet in the old house. Ralph was able to contact that man, Mr. Richard, and arranged to buy his house. Wharton showed the house to the American preachers who had come to conduct the campaign. They all agreed that it would make an ideal place for the Kingstown congregation to worship. The building itself was made of solid concrete walls about eighteen inches thick. It was probably built in the early 1950's but it still looked as if it would last many more years. The site of the building was strategically placed for evangelism in the city of Kingstown. Ralph asked the American brothers to help the Vincentians to purchase the property. Each of them pledged to help secure $500.00 U.S. dollars. The English pound had been devaluated that same year. Since the Vincentian dollar was just an extension of the British pound, this meant that the Vincentian dollar was automatically devaluated that same year. The U.S. dollar was then worth about two Vincentian dollars. With the pledges from the American brothers and the assurance from the Vincentians that they would give whatever was within their power, Ralph felt confident in arranging for the purchase of the Richards property. However, it was not until the closing weeks of 1968 that the Kingstown church began regular worship in the Kingstown Park location.