Anglicans celebrate 150 years as a Diocese
Published: Nov 10, 2011
As Anglicans celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Diocese in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and what it means to be of their faith and Christian, they were told their history should be seen as a book of lessons from which they can gather some insights that can make them more effective in their mission and ministry today.
“Know that whatever happened yesterday or yesteryear — be it good, bad or indifferent — can still be a lesson for us today about how we can deal with today so we may have no regrets about tomorrow,” said The Reverend John Holder, archbishop of the West Indies and bishop of Barbados at the service held at Christ Church Cathedral. “Our history should be a lesson that can help us not repeat the mistakes of yesterday, but to carve out a better tomorrow.”
He told Anglicans that they should deal with their history by not living in the past, and pretending that it was all glory, because certain conditions did exist and certain events did take place.
“We deal with it by cultivating a spirit of forgiveness that enables us to deal with the events that were inhuman and non-Christian by thanking God for allowing the likes of the gospel to shine through even at the worst times in our history. We will deal with the past by ensuring that we do not become prisoners or slaves or patrons to bitterness. We let go, for that will imprison us, and move forward on the road that has brought us to where we are today. Even as we thank God for these 150 years of mission and ministry as a Diocese, we must as a church, find the courage to point to the presence of God at work during these years.”
Archbishop Holder encouraged Anglicans to move on by the grace of God, on the road that He brought them, to where they are today. He charged them to share their faith with others, and move out from their protective zones to spread the message. He also urged them to encourage Anglicans who had drifted away and weren’t attached to a church to return.
“Encourage those who have fallen away from Christianity, to rethink and recommit. Use as your missionary guide, our Lord Himself. We like Him, must reach out to embrace and guide others along the way that leads to His Kingdom. We must go out there to share the great understanding of the faith with which we have been entrusted.”
In a time when violence is rampant not only in The Bahamas, but the region, the Archbishop told the membership to pay special attention to the youth, and to try to reach those who may seem to lack purpose and direction in their lives.
“My challenge to Anglicans is to ensure that this [Anglican] section of God’s church where you are called to be laborers in the vineyard, continues to be a source of spiritual strength and renewal for all who seek comfort and solace in their lives,” he said at the anniversary service.
“Let it be a shelter from the rough edges of life that can sap our confidence in God [as] there is still a great need in this life for a place of spiritual refreshment, where we can go to find assurance and renew our hope in God.”
As they celebrated their anniversary with the city of Nassau, which also celebrated 150 years, they were encouraged to extend a hand of fellowship and friendship to their fellow Christians in other churches, and told that together, they could achieve great things.
Archbishop Holder described their history as a “winding road” filled with high points and low points. But he said the establishment of the Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands gave Anglicans in the islands a sense of independence and purpose. And that with the grace and guidance of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, they carved out their mission and ministry, and their Christian identity.
“We reflect, thanking God for the many opportunities that allowed us to do His work in this Diocese, and point others to Him. We reflect, asking for His forgiveness for the many times we have fallen short of the mark. We thank Him for His grace that allowed us to move on. We travel this Christian road, guided by a special strand of Christianity — Anglicanism — and we are thanking God today for 150 years of work, witness and worship as a Diocese. Even as we thank God for the Anglican Diocese as a ministry, we must not forget, that long before 1861, the Anglican Church was at work in these islands. (Anglicans were in the islands more than 360 years ago). We as Anglicans need to be proud of what we have inherited.”
As they move forward, Archbishop Holder encouraged Anglicans to think of new and creative ways their understanding of God’s all-embracing and forgiving love can be put to work. And he said they don’t have to look too far, as a helping hand can always be lent to people whose lives have been wrecked by HIV/AIDS. He says they can help by responding to the violence that is spreading “like a cancer” in the region, and to the youth and the challenges they face. A helping hand he says can also be lent to the people caught up in the present international turmoil and may be finding it difficult to make ends meet, and other pressing issues that are creating real challenges to the church in the region.
“We need first of all, an understanding of the church that can embrace its central missionary role and like our Lord, respond to those in need.
Our understanding of the church must not be seen simply as a passport to Heaven, or a reminder of hell. We must not become lost in the rituals and traditions, that we forget, that our primary task is mission. Our ministry must address the pressing social issues of our time and affirm the presence of God. “
As Anglicans he said they should not confuse wrong with right, or might with right, and do not sacrifice the ways of God for expediency, and that they should stand up for justice, righteousness and peace. He said a society in which justice, peace and compassion are relegated to second-class status soon becomes a society where the care and concern of people, are relegated to the status of an option, rather than being a moral imperative and an indispensable Christian demand.
“We should exercise our ministry, guided by the compassion exercised in the ministry of Jesus, so we do not rush to condemn, but try to understand and offer support. It is the trying to understand approach to life that has made Anglicanism into the kind of stabilizing force it has been in this Diocese, in these islands, in this province, and throughout the world. And we need such a stabilizing force in every society that can hold the varied and sometimes conflicting forces together.”
The Right Reverend Laish Boyd, bishop of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands reminded his congregation that their 150th anniversary was not just about a historical link, but about centuries of active and influential life-impacting ministry, exercised by their church.
The Diocese is comprised of 25 islands — 21 in The Bahamas, and four in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with more than 90 congregations, more than 70 clergy, four schools and numerous specialty ministries.
Bishop Boyd thanked God for the rich heritage of the Anglican Church and the opportunity given to them to serve. But he says they cannot rest on the past and must press on to share effective and groundbreaking ministry.