Layou Methodist Chapel is one of the earliest mission houses established. In the early 19th century land was granted to the Methodists by the Greg family, owner of the Hillsborough Estate, which in those days extended right to the borders of the village of St. Joseph. A strong stone building was constructed in 1827, which still stand today. Already the small village of Layou had development along the narrow strip of land called “the King’s Three Chain” which was the equivalent of 66 yards wide from the sea shore. This community was mainly made up of “free people of colour” who were fishermen, traders and owners of small properties in the interior up the Layou Valley. These people made up the core membership of the Methodist Congregation of the Layou Chapel. They were joined by he enslaved on neighbouring plantations particularly Hillsborough. Lay readers and Sunday School Teachers also came from this group, who instructed the enslaved in learning the Gospel Particularly after the Amelioration Laws of 1822, which granted greater freedom to the enslaved to participation in religious worship.
The Layou Chapel was visited by the Quaker abolitionists Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey when they called at Dominica in 1837 to investigate the workings of the so called Apprenticeship System. They reported approvingly about the conduct of Services and teaching at the Layou mission in their book,”The West Indies in 1837″ which was published the following year. Essentially they advocated the Apprenticeship was a waste of time and called for an immediate move to full, emancipation.
We pay tribute to our early pioneers, Sis.Elizabeth Walker, Sis. Merchant, Sis. Florie, Sis. Mary Jane Stephenson and Sis. Elfreda Benjamin Jolly (Ma Benjie). They taught the women of the Church and community the art of cooking, sewing and art/crafts made out of straw and other materials.
The Church was destroyed by fire in 1976. Members had to be transported to Roseau every Sunday to worship at the Bethesda Chapel. After some time this arrangement broke down and membership began to dwindle as members left to join other Churches in the area. In order to restore the link with the members, an engineering report was requested by Rev. John Gumbs in order to inquire if the the Chapel could be restored.
The report indicated that the Chapel could be restored and Rev. Selwyn Vanterpool and devoted members like Bro. Mascol Ernest, Bro. Reynold and Edward Carrette, Bro. Lockhart Riviere, Sis. Elfreda Benjamin Jolly (Ma Benjie) and others, were able to obtain a work team from the Houston Conference to assist in the restoration of the Chapel. The rededication of the Chapel was in 1981. During that time the actual membership returned, stating that the dedicated and positive nature of the membership encouraged them to return.
The Communion Rail and Table was copied from a catalogue and built from mahogany wood by the local carpenters from Layou. The workmanship was of a high standard and the membership was encouraged by what the saw.
Layouis the only Congregation in the circuit with a modern electronic band which plays a major active role in Church worship. The Band was started by the Rev. Alberic and Joyce Rohan.
In November 2001, Rev. William Watty celebrated his 50th year of preaching at the Layou Chapel where he preached his first sermon on November 11, 1951.
So although the Layou Chapel disappears from much of the documented record for the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the work of its Congregation continues to build a Strong Christian foundation among the people of the Circuit up to the present day.