Bishop Patrick White reflects on his first year in office

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A year into his role as Bishop of Bermuda, the Right Rev. Patrick White can reflect on having performed the Thanksgiving Service for Her Majesty on her visit here, on hosting the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and presiding over the funerals of Health Minister Nelson Bascome and former Senate President Albert Jackson.

But a more pressing concern to him perhaps, is the recent violence which plagued the Island in the weeks before Christmas and into the New Year. According to Bishop White, Bermuda must work together if it is to successfully tackle that issue and the same technique must be applied to improving the education system.

"It's a complicated issue," he said. "It's education, it's violence, its race, it's economics. Right at the end of the year, we have had these shootings and a number of them have happened in Pembroke which includes St. John's, St. Monica's and St. Augustus. On either side of the valley, there are Anglican churches.

  • <b>Bishop of Bermuda</b> Patrick White poses in his office at The Bermuda Cathedral.

    Bishop of Bermuda Patrick White poses in his office at The Bermuda Cathedral.


A year into his role as Bishop of Bermuda, the Right Rev. Patrick White can reflect on having performed the Thanksgiving Service for Her Majesty on her visit here, on hosting the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and presiding over the funerals of Health Minister Nelson Bascome and former Senate President Albert Jackson.

But a more pressing concern to him perhaps, is the recent violence which plagued the Island in the weeks before Christmas and into the New Year. According to Bishop White, Bermuda must work together if it is to successfully tackle that issue and the same technique must be applied to improving the education system.

"It's a complicated issue," he said. "It's education, it's violence, its race, it's economics. Right at the end of the year, we have had these shootings and a number of them have happened in Pembroke which includes St. John's, St. Monica's and St. Augustus. On either side of the valley, there are Anglican churches.

"One of the things that came out of this stuff with the shootings is what happened last Saturday when you had the churches from the area and the churches in between all come together for these marches."

Pembroke churches, organisations and individuals joined together at Victor Scott School in a show of support for the surrounding communities affected by violence. Billed as 'One Community United', those who attended walked through some of Pembroke's hardest hit communities, including Friswell's Hill and the area of St Monica's Road.

"We heard church speakers and [Government MP for Pembroke East Central] Michael Weeks speak. He gave his testimony of his life. And we had about 200 to 300 people there. Somebody did ask where were the people we're trying to reach, were they there?

"If you look at 42nd Street, there is St. Monica's, Heard Chapel. There's a Seventh-day Adventist church and there's a Pentecostal church. These places are within shouting distance. But did we ever talk?

"It's a big public show with parishioners coming together and saying 'we're in this together'. It's not the kind of thing that's going to stop bullets, but [it's an example of] breaking out of these enclaves of people gathering to do their own things. If nothing else, I think it helps to relieve some of the anxieties that are there. It's just that sense of well, there are other people that are concerned about this too."

It's just as important that the Island get problems with the education system "licked", he said.

"Why it hadn't been and whether it's become too politicised, I don't know what it is but we have just got to get that licked.

"We have good schools here that can prepare kids to go to any school in the world. When it comes to education, Bermudians need to fill out the workforce of Bermuda and to take these jobs which [some claim] expats are taking. We just don't seem to have gotten as far as we should have."

He insisted it was time Bermuda stopped focusing on an individual's race and concentrate on efforts that would better the entire community.

"There's a little bit of the kind of Louis Farrakhan thing. When you get these sort of high profile people coming to Bermuda and there's publicity and attention and then they go. Well what comes of that?"

Mr. Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, visited Bermuda last summer. Among his many messages were that young whites should accept responsibility for past actions that caused today's racial divide and that opposing gang members needed to resolve their conflicts to bring peace to the Island.

It's time to tone down the rhetoric, the bishop said.

"We have got to get this grounded at the parish level in terms of what we're deliberately doing and toning down the rhetoric and race. Not doing it in a way that's trying to shove it off [to say] look, we're working on this stuff. Let's be positive about this stuff and continue to address the issues that are among us.

"We're pretty integrated. We're all working together. We use the same water for baptisms. We drink out of the same communion cup. My own take on that, for what it's worth, is that what happened after the segregation barriers came down? Places were open for business and opportunities that hadn't been there in the past.

"Then we started to build legislation around what is allowable and what isn't. When I was younger, segregation wasn't even on my radar. I was living with it but I didn't know what it was. Then having come back after 45 years in 1997, I kept asking myself 'what is it that I'm missing?'

"The language around race is very strong. And so I can say for myself 'what am I missing' but I wonder whether it isn't true for a lot of other Bermudians."

He said some might be tied to the past because segregation is a "living memory" for them.

"It goes back into the 70s and 80s so we have a generation of people here who lived with it. Yes, things have changed and there's been an improvement. But it doesn't take away the fact of being there and having experienced it.

"Some people are very angry still. Some people say 'that was then, this is now, I have moved on'. Others have said 'we can't forget'. For many people it's still a part of their experience and it still hurts. It still makes them mad when they think about it. But it's human.

"The question is what is the Bermuda that we want? What does that Bermuda look like? Is that a black and white Bermuda or a black or white Bermuda?

"When we talk about Bermudians, we're talking about African descent, Anglo and Portuguese decent. Look at the impact the Portuguese have had on Bermuda. You have people on the top levels of business and people who are still coming over from the Azores to work as landscapers."

Last year, the Anglican Church of Bermuda overturned 400 years of tradition and voted in favour of women clergy on the Island.

Rev. Joanna Hollis is the Island's first female priest. She was ordained in Santa Barbara, California on December 10 and has joined her father, Archdeacon Emeritus, Arnold Hollis in becoming an Anglican priest.

Asked if women priests are welcome, Bishop White said: "Sure. We're sort of waiting for someone to come. We ask that a person has had five years minimum experience as the parish priest before they come back to Bermuda to take a parish."

He said all priests have to go through that process, not just women.

"So it's a part of who we are. There were some exceptions to it. If we had a woman who had been out in a parish in the UK, the US, South Africa or Australia, if a woman were to apply along with the requisites, she could become a parish priest in Bermuda.

"Another way is for a person from Bermuda to start to prepare for ordained ministry. That takes a long time but that's another way. We have a lot of interim clergy to take parishes when we're between clergy. So certainly a woman would be eligible. So there's different ways that it could happen.

"We had the meeting in which the issue was brought forward. There was some debate about it and it was approved. Not unanimously, but it was certainly the majority. It was thought that when the announcement was made, there was actually applause. A lot of lay people were asking why we waited this long."

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