From its earliest days, religious activity was allowed at the University of the West Indies. In its first meeting on 2 September 1948, the College Senate—the body responsible for undergraduate discipline and academic affairs—agreed that “one of the huts should be prepared for Church services and the Principal undertook to make suitable arrangements with the Christian Churches in Jamaica for the conduct of services in the College, the first service to be held on Sunday 3 October 1948 at 9am.” (UC-BV-11) A hut, from the former Gibraltar Camp days, would have been used since the University Chapel was not constructed until 1956. The Chapel held its first service in June 1959 and was dedicated in 14 February 1960.
Religious activities were considered formal events of the university. At the June 1951 meeting of the College Senate, wherein the Regulations for Undergraduates were determined, it was stipulated that religious services were to be held in the College on Sundays and it was agreed that undergraduates were to wear gowns when attending Chapel.
As part of the Matriculation process, students also declared their religious affiliations. The 1959 list, entitled “Denominational Distribution of Students”, reflect the wide variety of religions and Christian denominations present in the Caribbean. The University College student body included Christians (Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals, Salvation Army, Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Christadelphians) with the Hindus, Muslims, Humanists, and Vedics being accorded the status of religions.
Today, at the UWI Mona Campus, there are four official University Services: the Welcome Service in September, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in December, the Commemoration Service in February and Valedictory Service in April/May.
Happy Easter holidays from us all at the University Archives