A restorative duty of care
On the morning of January 16, approximately 20 volunteers of all ages came to lend a helping hand for Parish Pride Project's first weekend of activity for 2021.
Some were power washing, some were scraping, others were patching up holes with fresh cement on a precious part of Bermudian history. To be more specific, an integral part of Devonshire history.
The walls of Christ Church have stood the test of time for more than 100 years. Those who designed and built them have long been escorted up the steep hills to lay with countless generations of the ancestors of the clans of Devonshire.
As we know, with the Church of England being the official church of Bermuda, there have been long-established churches in every parish in the island.
• St George's Parish: St Peter’s Church
• St David’s Island: Chapel of Ease
• Hamilton Parish: Trinity Church
• Smith’s Parish: St Mark's Church
• Devonshire Parish: Christ Church
• Pembroke Parish: Holy Cathedral, St John’s Church, St Monica’s Mission, St Augustine’s Mission
• Paget Parish: St Paul’s Church
• Warwick Parish: St Mary’s Church
• Southampton Parish: St Anne’s Church
• Sandys Parish: St Michael’s Church and St James Church
Each of these buildings has historical value, as they were all built over the past four centuries, with St Peter’s Church being the oldest Anglican church in the western hemisphere.
Within these church walls, tens of thousands of Bermudians of all walks of life were baptised, attended Sunday school, married, attended weekly church services and eventually were buried.
As with everything else in Bermuda, these church buildings have been a part of our segregated and racist social structure. My father’s generation and countless other generations before them grew up attending these churches.
Mind you, all who attended did not all sit in the same pews or get buried in the same sections of the parish graveyards.
In the early 1960s, with the growing consciousness of racial inequality and the need for a civil rights movement in Bermuda, many of my father’s generation broke away from the Anglican Church and joined other progressive-minded denominations such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of God and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
While they may have attended other denominations, there was one commonality that none could escape, for each one of us are appointed a time to live and a time to die.
Upon their deaths and subsequent funerals, the vast majority of Bermudians are buried within the walls of parish graveyards. One's parish of birth and/or traditional family homestead determines at which particular church graveyard they will be buried.
As a prime example, persons from Sandys Parish will almost certainly be buried at St James. Likewise, persons from Hamilton Parish will be buried at Trinity Church.
So, for us in Devonshire, Christ Church is the traditional place of last residence for thousands of our ancestors.
With that in mind, it becomes our duty to ensure that the place where our elders rest is well cared for. So this wall project is one we carry out in reverence, not to a denomination but out of love and respect for those who paved the way for us.
For the next two months, every Saturday morning, weather permitting, we will be working on the church wall in phases.
The first phase is to scrape off old paint, attack the moss and to repair any cracks. Then we will apply a coat of primer paint to the scraped wall and new cement. The final phase will be to apply two coats of paint over the primer.
With approximately 500 feet of wall to tend to, our goal is to work four hours every Saturday during the cooler months until it is completed.
Anyone wishing to assist can simply show up anytime after 9am on Saturdays at Christ Church on Middle Road, Devonshire. This is a perfect opportunity for schoolchildren in need of community hours.
All safety equipment, working tools, refreshments and snacks will be provided.
Feel free to reach out to project leader Llewellyn Trott or myself if you wish to volunteer or donate items. We look forward to seeing you. Thanks in advance.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com