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40-year walk with God

by Gercine Carter

40-year walk with God

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Back in 1969, something about Vincent Wood caught the attention of fellow journalists in the Broad Street newsroom of the Barbados Advocate. His Christian-like bearing prompted colleagues to begin referring to the young reporter as “the preacher fellow”.Four decades later, Pastor Vincent Wood is celebrating a life dedicated to his faith, and a journey that has taken him to key positions of authority in the Baptist Church. May 24 marked his 40th anniversary as head of the Emmanuel Baptist Church on President Kennedy Drive, St Michael.Wood is a vice-president of The Baptist World Alliance in Virginia, the umbrella body for 37 million Baptists around the world. It is a position that has afforded this Barbadian pastor the opportunity to travel extensively.He told the Weekend Nation: “I entered the ministry because of a direct call from God. I sensed God’s call upon my life and I had a decision to make.”That was in the 1960s when Wood, like many other Barbadians, was considering migrating to Britain, which was at the time regarded as a land of opportunity. He had applied to and received documentation to join the British Navy.“At that time the choice was whether I would go to Britain or whether I would go and prepare to enter the ministry. But the strong struggle was there.” Woods viewed the “severe sickness” that befell him at the same time as “the Lord speaking to me concerning being disobedient to His call”.ExperienceWood needed no more messages. He went off to the Windward Islands Baptist College for three years to study for the ministry. Further study would later follow at Briar Cliff Manor in New York.The American experience exposed him to the rudiments of pastoring at churches like the 6 000-member Cornerstone Baptist Church, where he was taken under the wing of Pastor Dr Sandy Ray and his wife. He was able to preach in some of Brooklyn’s well known Baptist churches.Wood has twice held the position of president of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship and served as a member of the board of trustees from 1978 until this year.Ever since his ordination at the First Baptist Church on Constitution Road, he has been demonstrating a commitment to enriching the spiritual and physical lives of fellow Baptists.His is a familiar voice on radio broadcasts from the Emmanuel Baptist Church. He was its first pastor and continues to guide the flock of 300 souls, while being an inspiration to the neighbouring communities of Westbury, Kensington, and Eagle Hall.“One of the things about building the church: I have always emphasised strongly the tithing system to our members . . . I believe in self-sufficiency and being supportive, and my people understood that and gave.”He credits this giving and the generosity of Baptist partners overseas for the physical development of Emmanuel Baptist Church and the just completed adjacent church centre on Barbarees Hill, which will be dedicated on Sunday.It has been a long “struggle” to complete the new building, but Wood states: “We are strong believers in God’s promise that ‘I will never leave you or forsake you, so we went forward knowing that God would make a way’.”The church building caters to religious services, while downstairs houses a nursery school and day care centre, with a staff of 12.According to Wood, these facilities will be moved to the new church centre, with plans to increase staff and student intake.“One of the things I want to have is training of young people in computer, particularly from this area and the other surrounding areas, as well as young people in the church.” A well structured feeding programme to benefit needy people in the neighbourhood is also on the cards. Wood explains this generosity would be for those “outside the membership”, in neighbouring communities. By his own account, this would merely be an extension of the community welfare outreach in which the church has engaged for many years, assisting families with school supplies and other materials.Under attackThis committed Baptist minister observes: “The church is constantly under attack because many people believe that the church is not catering adequately to the needs of the masses. “Sometimes, we as church leaders might have brought some of the criticism on ourselves because some of us are not as faithful to the cause as we should be. There are some of us that focus more on finances, on more fleecing the congregation than feeding the congregation.”But Wood asserts: “My view of the church is to cater to the total man, and we cannot only preach Bible. We must feed the soul, of course, but we must also feed the body and help in any way we can.”