A lifetime of ministry
After a lifetime of ministry, Arnold Hollis, the Archdeacon Emeritus of St James's Anglican Church, has retired from his post as rector.
His final Sunday as priest-in-charge of the Sandys church was August 30, after 43 years of service to the Somerset community.
Dr Hollis began his journey into ministry at an early age, having a desire to be involved in church life even as a child.
“From a very young boy I was fascinated by religion and faith,” he said.
“I was intrigued by the way the Church of England, as it was called back then, conducted their services. I remember being about 10 or 11 and I would come home from church and mimic the services — I had my own little altar and everything. As a result, I had this great feeling that I was being called to be a servant of Jesus himself.”
The feeling continued at the Berkeley Institute where “some persons even laughed at the idea that I could be a priest in the Anglican Church”.
It was then a time of racial segregation with few people of colour within ordained ministry in Bermuda's churches.
“Here was this little black kid, trying to even think that he could be a minister in what was considered a white, elite church, so to speak.
“But I was drawn to the Anglican Church because I felt that it had a true picture of what Jesus's ministry was about. And I liked the axiom of the church — the church to teach and the Bible to prove.”
On graduating, Dr Hollis became a teacher at Harrington Sound Primary School, but his desire to enter ordained ministry remained strong.
It was not until the parish priest at Holy Trinity Church took an interest in him, that he was able to see a future.
“Reverend Robert Waterson along with the Archdeacon at the time, Reverend John Stow, came together and assisted me in getting accepted into Codrington Theological College in Barbados. They worked out everything for me and sent me off in 1956.”
On completion, Dr Hollis went to England for training and his curacy.
“I was happy at the thought of going and serving my title in England. It was a period of two years, during which time I moved from a deacon to a priest. At the end of this process I wrote back to the Bishop in Bermuda inquiring about when to come home and the response I received was that there was no available place.
“That was not always the truth, but there was indeed no place for me. That went on for 17 years. I was told that I could stay in England or go to the West Indies. In my annoyance, I decided to go to the West Indies. I intended to go back to Barbados until a position in a mission church was offered to me in Guyana.”
There he had “two of the most rewarding experiences” of his life: working with the Amerindians who lived in the jungle and ministering to lepers.
“At one point, I was responsible for eight churches,” he said. “It was a joy to minister there.”
Two years later he returned to England, where he served in various parishes. In 1969, he married his wife, Janice, and the couple moved to the United States to minister in Philadelphia and later New Jersey.
Throughout it all, Dr Hollis unsuccessfully applied to work here.
“Each time I came home, I would inquire to check and see what was available for me here in Bermuda and I would receive the same response every time. Apparently, I was not qualified.”
He returned to school and received a bachelor's degree in sociology, two masters of divinity and also a doctorate in parish ministry and church administration.
“Ironically, the next time I applied for a position in Bermuda, I was told that I was too qualified.”
He was committed to ministering in his home country and continued to apply for positions within the Anglican Church.
Hope came with two vacancies in 1976, one in St George's and the other in Sandys.
“For six months, I went back and forth between the two parishes. Neither was willing to hire me.
“This went on and on until [former premier] Sir John Swan, who was the minister responsible for immigration at the time, stepped in and told both parishes that one of them needed to hire me otherwise he would not consider any work permit applications for either.”
After “much back and forth” he was accepted by Sandys parish vestry in 1977 and stayed at St James's Church until his retirement.
He became incredibly active in the life of the Anglican Church of Bermuda and the Sandys parish community, serving as Chaplain for the former Casemates Prison and also Her Majesty's Royal Navy.
Dr Hollis was nominated for the position of Bishop of Bermuda on three occasions. In 1997, he was appointed as Archdeacon of Bermuda, a position he held until 2004.
Now 87, he is looking forward to spending time with his daughters and grandchildren, as well as caring for his wife.
“My faith kept me going through it all,” he said.
“I suppose others may have given up and moved on, but when I was told that I wasn't qualified, I just decided to go and get more qualified. It didn't cause me to give up. I had faith.
“I hope that my legacy will be that I did my very best to share the good news of the kingdom of God with those who I came into contact with. That was my life's mission and my greatest hope.”
• A service honouring Arnold Hollis, the Archdeacon Emeritus of St James's Anglican Church, will be held at the church on September 13 at 4pm