By Elsa Jones
A number of years ago, the late bishops Arthur Brown and Basil Tonks, along with a number of other dedicated and enthusiastic clergy and laypeople, had a vision to help our Christian brothers and sisters in the Caribbean. To this day, the Canadian Friends to West Indian Christians has upheld that legacy by hosting a yearly dinner in which we pay tribute, show appreciation and continue the work that the bishops began so many years ago. Some of this work has enabled theological students to pursue their academic education and help prepare them for ordained ministry.
The 29th annual fundraising dinner was held on Oct. 24 at the Church of the Ascension, Don Mills. We began the evening with the Eucharist, with Archbishop Colin Johnson presiding, followed by an exceptional dinner. The mood was light and cheerful, the camaraderie was great and the food prepared by our caterer, Mrs. Singh, was tantalizing to our taste buds.
Over the years, the dinner has featured a number of informative speakers. Some have challenged us to spread our wings and fly beyond our comfort zones. This year, our guest speaker was the Rt. Rev. Claude Berkley, bishop of the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago. In his address, Bishop Berkley gave us a synopsis of the pros and cons of the work of the church and being a member of the clergy. He spoke about the challenges facing the church in recruiting new priests, the factors that encourage ordained ministry in the West Indies, and how God’s Holy Spirit is moving in Trinidad and Tobago and the Church in the Province of the West Indies.
The shortage of clergy in the Caribbean has always been an area of concern, he said. The Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago has been fortunate to have priests of good quality, but not always enough of them. However, there has been much improvement, with the ordination of 10 priests and 17 deacons. Currently there are six candidates for ministry at Codrington College in Barbados. From 2011 to 2015, his diocese conducted a training program using local courses, which was successful.
In all of this, there is still hope for the ministry of the church, he said. There is work to be done and there is commitment and enthusiasm towards the process, for the church has been the centre of the lives of the people who love the Lord.
Archbishop Johnson spoke of the contribution that Anglicans from the West Indies have made and continue to make to the Diocese of Toronto and the wider Anglican community. He also took the opportunity to congratulate the Canadian Friends to West Indian Christians on the work it is doing in making a difference in the lives of the theological students in the West Indies. Archbishop Michael Peers, the former Primate, said the closing prayers, and guests were sent home with God’s blessings.
Elsa Jones is the chair of the Canadian Friends to West Indian Christians.