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Elaine Commissiong
May 20th, 2017

Webster members and adherents who remember Rev. David Lapsley, will be saddened to hear of his death which took place on May 14th 2017.

His funeral Service was held in Fisherwick Presbyterian Church, Belfast on Thursday 18th May at 12.30pm. A message of condolence and remembers was conveyed on our behalf to his widow, Vickie, by UCJCI General Secretary, Rev. Norbert Stephens, and a personal message was also conveyed to her by our Minister, Rev. Astor Carlyle, who remembered his visit to Webster on the event of our 70th Anniversary.

Rev. Lapsley, served in Mt Olivet Charge, (including Mt Olivet, Spaldings, and Bailleston congregations) from 1963-65, after which he joined us at Webster Memorial, serving from 1965-71.

He looked back on his time in Jamaica with deep appreciation. Of his (and his then wife Mary’s) time in Jamaica he recalled: "These were some of the most exciting, challenging and formative years in our lives, radicalising and freeing both of us. The clay jars were broken and remade and the horizons were widened”.

Mary died in 1994 and after 6 years, in October 2000 he and Vickie were married and enjoyed a happy marriage.

While at Webster, Rev. Lapsley’s first move was to abolish the holding of Sunday School in the afternoon, which was not well supported, and instead arranged for it to be held at the same time as the Morning Service.

The upsurge in attendance was described as “remarkable.” It was Rev. Lapsley who also initiated the formation of a second morning service, which was held at 9:00 a.m. to complement the early morning service, then held at 7:30 am. He also introduced Jamaican hymns and music to the Church services; --- a gradual initiation which did not at first win immediate approval from the majority of the congregation of the day! Free wedding services and receptions for couples living together, outside marriage were also offered as part of the Church’s Outreach programme called “Operation Friendship.”

Work at Majesty Pen, led by John Levy was assisted, and Basic School classes were held in the Church Hall. Exhibitions of paintings by budding artists were held and Rev. Lapsley became Chairman of the Churches Advisory Bureau, which had umbrella responsibility for social work in Western Kingston. It was during Rev. Lapsley’s tenure that the then Presbyterian Webster, like all of its sister Churches, became part of a union with the Congregational Church, and Webster became, ‘Webster Memorial United Church’. Interestingly, in his Message to us, in the publication marking Webster’s 50th Anniversary, Rev. Lapsley recalls the following:

“Our concern to strengthen things Jamaican in our presentation of the Gospel, took a dramatic new step forward when we agreed to allow the newly formed Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica, to hold its Inaugural Service in Webster, complete with incense and gorgeous apparel, and in some cases Rastafarian locks. Many subsequent services were held in our Sanctuary.

He went on to add:

“Our young people were encouraged to become involved in many outreach projects. All this of course felt short of what has been subsequently achieved, but it was a modest move in the direction God was surely calling us to take.” Rev Lapsley left Jamaica and Webster in 1971.