Year of The Prayer
The reconvening of Parliament will be remembered more for the opening prayer than the Throne Speech. I got more links sent to me on WhatsApp of the prayer and, ironically, received no links of the Throne Speech. I would venture to think the prayer was a hot item on social media and circulated island-wide.
Pastor Georgette Prime-Godwin poured out her heart and soul in a riveting prayer that lasted for at least 20 minutes or more. Considering this was November 5 and Guy Fawkes Day, which saw a foiled plot back in 1605 of a disgruntled Catholic to blow up the Houses of Parliament. I think this prayer was a firebomb of the spiritual type that was totally unanticipated.
Georgette, whom I’ve known since she was a child, grew up in the grand old Vernon Temple Church in Southampton that like the St Paul's of Hamilton, was created by some very strong people. Perhaps one of the best environments in the world for a child to have developed, one that cultivates self-esteem and cause, particularly back in the 1960s and 1970s when the church was in its prime.
The pastor's prayer, which some may contend was uncharacteristic of a parliamentary opening, was indicative of the times, given that we are suffering the ravages of the pandemic — and then there were two horrific and brazen murders, two road deaths and the Covid-19 death toll surpassing 106. So it is a troubling and very disturbing situation with lots to pray about. No words were lost in her prayer, which echoed a new mood in the community at large. The community is unleashed and very vocal; pastor Georgette Prime-Godwin is a manifestation of that.
This was the first opening of Parliament for the new governor, and it was interesting to see a lady adorned in ceremonial dress. An event that on its own as the first female governor was enough to be celebrated and draw attraction, but even that was obfuscated and overshadowed by the prayer.
The prayer reminded me of some of my own family folklore regarding my great-grandfather, George Deshield, who was a very religious man and devout Christian. Whenever the Deshield family gathered on occasions such as Christmas or Easter, he would lead the prayer before the meals.
He was known for his long prayers and it was said that one of his brothers, Jeffrey Deshield, the grandfather of Myrtle Edness and great-grandfather of Dame Jennifer Smith, would deliberately come late because — as he had said — George's prayers were too long. Great-grandmother Clara naturally would not plate the food until after the prayer for fear it might get cold by the time he finished praying.
I come out of a tradition in Islam, where speeches were short and prayers and supplications were long, so have no objection to petitioning God to heal our lands. I suspect Pastor Georgette remembers all too well the song and biblical verse “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray”. After all, it is God that guides, and when we forget who truly governs and believe we are solely in charge with no oversight, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure.
Perhaps this may have been a blessing in disguise because the prayer provided a distraction from the Throne Speech, which was not expected to be glowing with inspiration. The Throne Speech is widely anticipated by the business community, but seen by the general community often as just “obligatory rhetoric”.
I don’t think there will ever be another opening prayer in the future of parliamentary openings such as this one. It will go down in history and be known as “The Prayer”, and ironically on Guy Fawkes Day.
This opening was not the political processes as usual; it was an intervention that caused a lot of community debate, particularly about the moral integrity of leadership. Unless we consider the Lord’s Prayer, I don’t think there was ever a moment when a prayer was distinguished or commemorated as the primary event above a speech.
It happened and we have to take it for what it was. It is now embedded as part of the history of our parliament, which will remain as a point of reflection for a long time. Possibly for ever.