It used to be the case where the contributions and achievements of the black Anglican community appeared to be “overlooked, unspoken and unseen”.
Thankfully things have changed.
Under the direction of Bishop Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Church of Bermuda last year set up the Rooted In Faith Committee, a group of eight or nine members who work to celebrate the diversity of the church and the rich history of black Anglicans on the island.
“The first major event we held was to invite Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin down, who is the Chaplain and Speaker of the House of Commons in London, originally from Montego Bay in Jamaica,” Bishop Dill explained.
“She came to speak of the contributions of blacks in the church in the Caribbean and England and also talked about race and the Bible. She shared about her own experience and how she was able to reconcile and reconnect with the church. It was a great inspiration for people to hear her speak and it was well received.
“What we have found is every parish has a different story so over the next little while we will be highlighting different aspects of the stories of black Anglicans who have been influential to the church and whom made significant contributions.
“This includes Canon Thomas Nisbett, Carl P. Wade, Canon James Francis, Archdeacon Emeritus Arnold Hollis and Bishop Ewan Ratteray, the first black Bermudian bishop.”
Next up on their agenda is a special evensong service tomorrow night, including prayers, hymns and canticles, honouring the life and ministry of the late Reverend William C. Trott, being held at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity at 6pm. Committee member Grace Rawlins knows of many black Bermudians who have contributed considerably to the church.
Throughout history they helped to establish mission churches and schools, volunteered their time in Sunday School and as music teachers, took part in social and religious activism, played a role in fundraising and missions work, as well as physically helped with the building of churches like St Mark’s, St Peter’s and Christ Church in Devonshire.
However, in many instances their contributions remain unknown.
“The Rooted In Faith Committee has set about trying to correct that imbalance,” Ms Rawlins explained.
“On Sunday we are celebrating the ministry of the Reverend Trott, who we believe was the first black Bermudian Anglican ordained in the church. He was ordained overseas and spent most of his ministry in the mission field, particularly in Costa Rica and Honduras. He was highly spoken of for the work he did overseas.
“Our understanding is he may have stayed overseas because at that time there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for him to have a church in Bermuda, until towards the end of his life. He came home around 1929 to assist in the East End at St Peter’s Church in St George’s and Chapel of Ease in St David’s.”
One of the comments made about Reverend Trott at his funeral was that he was “a man who lived very near to His God”.
Ms Rawlins, who will be preaching at tomorrow’s evening service, hopes that message will resonate with all believers.
“What a wonderful epitaph and something I feel if we could all live that close to God it would certainly make a difference in this world,” she said.
“I’m inspired by Reverend Trott’s faith. He didn’t allow the social circumstances of the day to deter him. It must have been a big step for a young man in the 19th century to go off to the UK to be educated, but he took the leap and went off to accomplish great things for the church and God.”
Ms Rawlins was introduced to the Anglican church “from the cradle”. Her parents were members of the Church of England — as a result she has fond memories of Anglican traditions and ceremonies from her childhood.
“My father grew up in the Caribbean, he was from Nevis, and anyone who knows anything about the church in the West Indies knows people are very serious about it and proud about it and don’t mind speaking of it. That’s the kind of household I grew up in.
“As I got older, I got satisfaction from the worship and the service. It’s a praying and Bible-based church, which is something people don’t realise. I also like the idea of having quiet, but joyful worship.”
God eventually gave her the push and nudge she needed to get involved in service and ministry.
“I’m now a lay reader in the church, but I don’t think initially I made an active effort to do this. God was just moving me,” Ms Rawlins said.
“I’ve learnt to listen to God because He knows the right way and has a plan. We don’t always understand or feel sure of the outcome, but if you listen to God and follow His voice you will get the best answer.” Bishop Dill is hopeful tomorrow evening’s event at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity will be both enlightening and empowering.
He said: “We hope those who come out will be connected to our history and hear the stories of those who have gone before, and see it as an encouragement to us in these racially divided times.
“We are experiencing all kinds of angst in our community and the world, but to hear how in their love for God these people overcame and modelled a different way of how we can be and can live together in unity, in spite of what was going on, is an inspiration to us all.”
•For more information on Sunday’s evensong service at 6pm, visit Facebook: Anglican Church of Bermuda