April 6, 2013 was an historic day in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada. On that day, the then Ven. Peter DeCourcy Fenty, Archdeacon of York and Executive Assistant to the Archbishop of Ontario and Bishop of Toronto, was elected a bishop of the Church. He was ordained and consecrated for the office on June 22, 2013, becoming the first Black person to be elected to this office in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Peter, a native of Barbados and a graduate of Codrington College, the University of the West Indies, and Huron College, was ordained a deacon on June 11, 1975, and a priest later that year.
Prior to coming to Canada, he exercised his priestly ministry in Barbados, serving as rector of the churches of St. Patrick’s (with St. Bartholomew), Christ the King and St. Matthias, and at the highest level in the councils of the diocese. His service to the wider community included working as a part-time teacher in secondary schools, guest tutor at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, and part-time tutor at the Barbados Community College. He was also the deputy chairman of the Board of Management of the Barbados Community College and a radio talk show host.
I know of the admiration and love the Anglican community had for him. To this day, members of my home parish still speak highly of him. Christian or not, Anglican or not, most Barbadians recognized his potential and leadership qualities and spoke expectantly about episcopal ministry in his future. There were those who longed for his return as their bishop.
In Canada, he was the rector of St. Lawrence, Montreal, and St. Joseph of Nazareth, Bramalea in the Diocese of Toronto. Mirroring his ministry in Barbados, he served at the highest levels of the Church in Canada and contributed to the development of the wider community. While serving in Montreal, he was a member of the board of the Black Community Council of Quebec. In Toronto, he served on the board of directors for Leap of Faith Together (LOFT) Community Services.
Writing about him prior to his election as bishop, his nominators said, “Peter will bring distinct gifts to the College of Bishops. In addition to being a consensus builder, he is not afraid to take prophetic stands on issues of importance in both the Church and the larger society. His considerable experience working with ethnic and racial communities has provided him with a unique lens with which to advocate for and work with the many different peoples that make up the increasing multicultural population of our city and Church.”
Following his election, Archbishop Colin Johnson said “Bishop-elect Fenty will bring a wide variety of gifts and a depth of experience to the job. Peter is a wonderful, passionate preacher. He’s been trained in a tradition of taking the scripture and making it relevant to people’s lives, and of building enthusiasm and encouraging people to engage with their faith. Peter is an extremely good facilitator. He’s able to go into a whole variety of situations, listen carefully to what’s going on, and help both analyze it and build a group of people who are able to address issues. He’s able to build bridges between different groups of people. He’s a very pastoral person. He listens well and prays with people and helps them in times of trouble and helps them celebrate their joys.”
I have been a witness to his outstanding service to God and God’s people throughout his ministry. Peter has spent a considerable amount of time sharing in the ministry to and with young people. He placed great emphasis on pastoral visitation and was very supportive of all who sought his pastoral care. As the good preacher that he is, he articulates the love and compassion of God in a way that reflects his deep knowledge of the Bible and that moves his hearers to respond in joy to the Lord. As a consensus builder, he is always willing to allow for full participation in or on any issue. He is not afraid, however, as a leader, to take a principled stand on any issue when that stand has to be taken.
His episcopal ministry in the diocese, and in the episcopal area of York-Simcoe in particular, reflected the truth of these testimonies. Many clergy in our episcopal area have been magnanimous in their satisfaction with his forthright and businesslike approach to matters that demanded his attention, and with the sincerity exhibited in his pastoral ministry as their bishop.
On a personal level, our relationship goes back to 1977, when he came to my home parish in Barbados, St. Patrick, as rector, a few months before I entered seminary. Peter was the preacher at my ordination to the diaconate in 1981 and was the officiating minister at my marriage to Lucy in 1984. When our family arrived in Toronto in 1993, he and his family drove from Montreal to meet us at the airport. We walked closely together in Barbados and even closer after he was called to Toronto. I stood with him through the episcopal elections in which he offered himself for higher service. It was a joy and honour to stand with him when he was made a bishop in God’s Church and to welcome him to Holy Trinity, Thornhill, the next day, when he celebrated his first Eucharist as bishop, pronouncing his first episcopal blessing on the faithful in his episcopal area.
Our wives share the same vocation as educators, at one time working in the same institution. Our children attended the same daycare and school in Barbados. They are like siblings whose relationship mirrors that of their parents. We have vacationed together. We have prayed together. Much to my amazement, people, on occasion, have confused Fr. Fields with Fr. Fenty. What an honour to be mistaken for “Fr. Fenty”!
My family joins me and the rest of our Church in wishing Bishop Peter and his wife, Angela, every blessing in his retirement.