Bermuda is a remarkable achievement
At the end of this month, the Anglican Church of Bermuda will say farewell to sitting Bishop Patrick White as he faces retirement and his 70th birthday this September.
Having grown up in the church, the Bishop felt the call into ministry as a teenager and had a strong, positive relationship with his parish priest, David McGuire.
I guess some of it was internal, in terms of I was just interested in things faith-wise, and there was a youth group, so it kept me interested at an age and a time when kids are maybe losing interest after Sunday School.
And then, it just occurred to me one day that this would be something that I might do. Probably because, in retrospect, because I looked at the guy who was the priest. We kind of hit it off and we had a pretty good relationship. It was simply friends ... and perhaps because of that, instead of some guy up in robes and spouting pieties, and that kind of stuff, or seeming sort-of super good, I got to know this person more fully, in his full humanity, as it were.
However, the thought of entering ministry and facing six years of university, seemed too much.
At the end of my high school years, it occurred to me and then I thought, well thats silly who am I? I was interested in all the things kids are interested in at that stage, but very soon after that, [the priest] actually spoke to me about it, and so the two things kind of came together, sort of like a spark jumping across two wires.
It seemed too much, so, instead, he looked to a more traditional life a family and a job.
It took another 15 or 16 years before it came back to me; as my wife says, two kids and a mortgage later ... And that wasnt because I was disenchanted with my work ... I was working at the hospital for sick children and was doing something that was very fulfilling in many ways, and in some ways, a job to die for, but the other sense had persisted, and I had continued to be involved in the life of the church, so I began to ask the question again. People were coming back and saying, well its about time.
The Bishop can't say he had any one specific conversion experience in his life; rather, he experienced a series of epiphanies at different points along the way, which led him on the path through life.
I can remember one morning coming out and, how old would have I been? Six, maybe seven years old, if that, and coming out there and just being I don't know if its a phrase I heard from a song or where it is, but Fields of Wonder... I came out and somehow the whole scene was infused with something beyond just I went out there and there was the trees and the grass and the lawn. Something grabbed me then, I couldn't articulate what it was, but there was something more going on.
There were moments when I felt I was a bit lost, and there were other moments when I was really clicking along very well.... It was just things that happened along the way which were affirmations, and they continue to happen. They are epiphanies; theyre a kind of hoo-wow, wasnt that something. Sometimes its just a coincidence... Its kind of neat.
When Rev White and his wife, Elizabeth, returned to Bermuda in May, 1997 to serve as the rector for Pembroke, he never expected that becoming Bishop would ever even be a possibility.
It was not on the radar screen at all (Bishop) Ewen (Ratteray) was the same age as me, and I fully expected him to go until the age of 70.
The last nearly four years have been quite eventful for the Bishop with several highlights, including hosting Bishop of York, John Sentamu for Bermuda's 400th anniversary.
It was just absolutely spectacular. And just some dimensions of that were that, on a very personal level were that he and Margaret ended up coming staying with us ... we were just nervous as birds ... We had dinners here, and lots of chats, so, on that personal level, there was all that lovely interaction with him. He's a very charismatic individual, even personally and up front.
His other great highlight was greeting the Queen on her official Royal visit for a service at the Cathedral.
How could a visit of the Queen to the Cathederal, meeting the Queen at the steps of the cathedral and walking her down the aisle, along with my wife and the Duke... The one little moment of that was that, cause you're told you don't touch.. so we're walking through the line where people are standing cheek by jowl...and there standing just this close to one another, so I couldn't even get the introductions out before she was on to the next, second or third person. But as we're doing that, and I'm concentrating on trying introduce them, I've got my hand on her shoulder, and I said to myself, OOPS! I better be careful, but I thought to myself afterwards, she's like my mum. And if my mum had been there, that's probably what I would have done.
The job has also been filled with challenges, not so much in the way of facing crises, but in terms of being the end of the line in church decision making.
It's just the nature of the work, that you're where the buck stops, the person who has to make the decision that nobody else can or wants to, and so, because those are decisions that affect people's lives, and you have to weigh that and the church ... Those are difficult decisions. I don't shy away from the necessity of doing them, but they do really challenge you very deeply, because you want to make sure that you've really given all the options that you can before making the really difficult one.
Another great challenge for the Bishop has been in terms of addressing cultural issues, like race relations, recognising the part the Anglican church itself played in it in the past, but also the hope that the church could also come together to be a part of the solutions, but without raising the level of negative rhetoric.
He is also excited about the increasing dialogue regarding gay and lesbian rights (see accompanying story).
Upon his retirement, Bishop White and his wife are planning on returning to the Toronto area, where his mother and their two daughters, their partners, and their grandchildren still live. They love the idea of possibly travelling, and the Bishop also hopes to pursue his hobbies of photography and music. Of course, they will be looking for a church and considering areas of continued ministry.
I've been used to being, kind of like the CEO, and now I'm going to be the man in the pew. Now I know there will be opportunities to do ministry, and I want to look at that pretty carefully and say, 'You know, I don't have to do all that, I can do what I want to do'. But I want to be of help, so there's that balance.
As he says goodbye to Bermuda, his message is this: This place, it is special... Bermuda, as it stands, is a remarkable achievement, and we need to do everything we can to hold on to that and further it. It's economic, yes; it's cultural; and it has this wonderful gift of this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - the creation side of it, which we really need to make sure that we dont lose that beauty through pollution... It's hard for me to put it succintly, but Bermuda is already an achievement, and we need to do everything we can to hold on to that culturally and spiritually.
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