Cause for optimism, despite challenges
by The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey D. Gibson
Vicar-General of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados
Dean of the Cathedral Church of St Michael and All Angels
“Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
This year’s observance of Barbados’ 54th anniversary of Independence coincides with two sharply contrasting events in the continuously evolving development of our relatively young nation. Both can be considered watershed events because, in a very real sense, they represent significant turning points in our history.
“The first event involves our planned move to republican status in a year’s time according to the timetable presented in the recent Throne Speech. From a national development perspective, it is an inherently positive move and, barring any unforeseeable events, this will be our last celebration of Independence as a constitutional monarchy tied to the British crown.
“The second event, which sharply contrasts with the first because it is inherently negative, is the lingering coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions. While we give thanks to Almighty God that Barbados has done better than many countries in managing this deadly crisis, the impact on our fragile economy and society has been far-reaching and devastating.
“COVID-19 is the worst public health crisis which the world has experienced in a century. Within the space of a few months earlier this year, long established patterns of social and economic life were suddenly disrupted and drastically and fundamentally altered. The introduction of social distancing and other counter-measures underscored the imperative of adjustment and adaptation to a ‘new normal’.
“Even though there has been some encouraging news recently about promising vaccines which provide a welcome ray of hope, it is unlikely that life will ever return to the pre-COVID dispensation given the scale of disruption. From this perspective, the pandemic has been, inherently, a negative and unwelcome development for humanity.
“With the planned move to republican status, we are approaching the end of a generally successful stage of our Independence journey and preparing for another to begin. I see it as a phase with exciting possibilities for further uplifting and empowering our people, improving our democratic governance, and working together to build a better and more just society.
“By helping to nurture a stronger Barbadian identity, republicanism can provide a major boost to our collective confidence which is so critical in supporting the quest for national development. No longer will we as a people swear allegiance to a monarch in faraway London, as we have done for close to 400 years. We will swear allegiance instead to the nation of Barbados — that is, ourselves in whom power, finally, will be fully vested.
“Prayerfully, as this generation accepts our dependence upon God for our achievements, a greater sense of individual responsibility will also be claimed by each citizen in fashioning character and conscience so that there would be a better demonstration of neighbourliness.
“Despite the challenges we face, there is still cause for optimism at this time. However, we cannot overlook the anxiety, uncertainty and generally negative fall-out from COVID-19. Overcoming these challenges requires steadfast faith and hope which allow us to see the silver lining behind every dark cloud.
“Fortunately, Barbados is a country which recognises the importance of faith. It is inscribed in our National Anthem which reminds us: “The Lord has been the people’s guide for past 300 years, With Him still on the people’s side, we have no doubts or fears.”
“Just as our foreparents did in confronting and weathering many storms during their lifetime, we too can tap into this wellspring of faith as we face the future. Faith assures us that God will be always there for us. Let us therefore face the future with confidence, confronting our challenges and capitalising on the opportunities.
“The Anglican Church has played a pivotal role in the Barbadian development story. Besides providing spiritual nourishment to generations of Barbadians, our most significant contribution has been in the field of education. Many today are either unaware or take this contribution for granted. However, when you consider that education has been the cornerstone of Barbados’ post-Independence success, the strong foundation laid by the Anglican Church becomes immediately clear.
“As we prepare to embark on the next stage of our development journey, the Anglican Church pledges to continue being there for Barbadians. On behalf of Bishop Michael who is currently overseas, the clergy and congregations across our island, I extend best wishes to the Government and people of Barbados on our 54th Anniversary of Independence.
“May Almighty God continue to bless and guide Barbados as we pray for the peace and prosperity of our fair land.” (PR)