UCAM celebrates its silver anniversary, reflecting on the pioneers
Students who move from their hometown and relocate to another parish to pursue studies oftentimes find it difficult to retain their active religious lifestyles, with the absence of like-minded persons or a building to accommodate their faith.
It was out of this need that the Universities and Colleges Apostolic Ministry (UCAM), was started to preserve spiritual strength 25 years ago.
"Tertiary education in Jamaica is far from being just about academic pursuits. For many students, it is equally or more important to maintain or advance one's spirituality. More specifically, it is about cultivating a relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Today, life on campus is filled with a host of activities, and as such, the need to remain spiritually focused is shared by many students who call themselves Apostolics," chair of the 25th anniversary celebrations organising committee, Sandrea Dennis-Plummer shared.
According to Dennis-Plummer, following a series of events and encounters with other spiritual groups, Sister Joan Russell and other nursing students from the University Hospital of The West Indies, (UHWI) were driven to approach the 'House Mother' - the administrative representative who saw to the welfare of the students at the time - for permission to begin their own ministry, which they named Pentecostal Students' Fellowship.
"Shortly after, on the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, amid the existence of Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and interdenominational groups, the need for Apostolic fellowship was on the rise. This was evident among the students, especially those who hailed from rural areas who had little or no access to fellowship, predominantly because of organisational barriers that existed at the time."
She continued: "Students such as Evan Owen Nepaul, a natural science student who transferred to medicine after one year, and hailed from Savanna-la-Mar, who had begun his studies at the UWI in 1976, had loneliness drive him to meet with two others and plant the seeds for what was to become more than they had imagined."
The Oneness Apostolic groups began to increase and soon the Pentecostal Students' Fellowship at the University Hospital and the Students' Apostolic Group on the UWI campuses were to be joined by yet another group, this time at the College of Arts, Science and Technology, CAST (now The University of Technology, UTech).
"Other established groups were at the Mico Teachers' College (now The Mico University), and at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, (CASE). The activities undertaken in those days were driven by evangelism, and were supported mainly by students from rural areas, but also by churches in and around Kingston, led by Mother Carmen Stewart and Bishop Ira D. Thompson. This joint activity led to the advent of tri-campus ministries of the nurses, UWI students and SACA (Students Apostolic Christian Association)."
Dennis-Plummer said that from these beginnings, leaders were cultivated by the campus ministries. Stalwarts such as Delton McDonald, Tony Pryce and Dr Lyndon Johnson were the first presidents of the Students' Apostolic Group at the UWI.
"On the CAST Campus, in 1990, Christopher Bryan began his studies and attended services held within their lunch hour. The then president was Sister Christie from King's Chapel and her vice-president, Brother Clifton Black, who highlighted the vision of UCAM, seeing that all the campus groups came together to form one ministry. Since then, the ministry has spread across the length and breadth of Jamaica, establishing itself on campuses within the rural areas."
UCAM was made official in 1993 under the leadership of Errol Heron, followed by Christopher Bryan, then Dr Trevor Ferguson. It is governed by a chartered constitution which presides over all UCAM activities and functions. And, it denotes the Motto: 'Unity, Fellowship, Evangelism'.
"The ministry's hierarchy comprises the national executive body, advisers, the national council, and members. Regardless of where we fall within the hierarchy, each member is popularly and passionately classified as a 'UCAMer'," she ended.