Photos from The Rev. Sandra Malone, St. Mary's, Virgin Gorda. They are from the Ash Wednesday midday service.
This is Rev. Erminie George at the service for seniors at St. Mary’s on Virgin Gorda.
The Dioceses of Alabama and the Virgin Islands have agreed to renew their Companion Relationship until January 2022. Alabama's decision was formally made at its 188th Diocesan Convention, which took place at Camp McDowell from February 8th to 10th. The resolution noted that since the relationship began three years ago, it "has grown, as envisioned, engaging multiple levels of relationship with clergy development, youth engagement, and spiritual deepening" and that "parish to parish relationships have begun".
In 2015 several youth from the Virgin Islands travelled to Camp McDowell for Senior Camp and this was followed by a Co-Diocesan Camp on the island of Tortola the following year. Last year, one youth from the Virgin Islands served at Sawyerville Camp in Alabama, a four-session, month-long experience for underprivileged youth. Plans are underway for several youth to attend Camp McDowell this year, and it is hoped that the Virgin Islands will be able to host an event next year.
In response to the devastation to the Virgin Islands caused by hurricanes Irma ad Maria, congregations from the Diocese of Alabama have assisted with physical rebuilding through volunteer teams as well as by providing clergy support to give much-needed respite to VI clergy. The diocese has also partnered with Episcopal Relief and Development to provide financial support for long-term recovery, particularly through a mini-grant program which seeks to work with congregations to transform the communities they serve.
Passage of the resolution was preceded by a hearing at which the Bishop of the Virgin Islands, Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, and a member of the Companion Relationship Committee, Rev. Sandra Walters Malone, spoke about their experience of the relationship. The gathering also heard from Past Chair of the Alabama Committee, Deacon Judy Quick, and her successor, Deacon Jeannie Randall. Deacon Randall and Director of Young Adults and Young People, Ms. Betsy Fetner, paid a visit to the Virgin Islands in January to meet with stakeholders.
Members of the clergy from the Dioceses of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands came together in San Juan in mid January for a Wellness Conference hosted by Church Pension Group. The day and a half event provided a forum for clergy to discuss 'Resilience in the Face of Disaster' as they looked at their own self-care in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, and to examine 'Techniques and Tactics for Developing Resilience' and 'Strategies for Coping with Uncertainty'. They also had the opportunity to explore resources available through CPG.
To close the conference, the two diocesan bishops, The Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales and The Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs co-celebrated the Eucharist in Spanish and English. Both promised to explore ways for their dioceses to build relationship and to work more closely together.
Blessed to be a blessing. That was the sentiment expressed on February 3rd as St. Paul's Church, Sea Cow's Bay, in the Virgin Islands diocese took the opportunity to honor two persons who were instrumental in its recovery in the immediate aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria and to make financial contributions to two entities that serve the community. The honorees were Pastor Elroy Liburd and Mr. Leslie Smith. Pastor Liburd, an electrician by profession, donated his services to rewire the church and parish hall and to install lighting fixtures and fans after damage caused by the hurricanes. Mr. Smith, a carpenter, replaced the sections of the church roof and the windows and doors blown off by the hurricanes, and also painted the interior of the building so that it was again fit for worship. The presentations were made by Bishop Ambrose Gumbs as he celebrated at a special service to mark the congregation's patronal festival.
Bishop Gumbs also presented cheques to Ms. Judith Charles of the Family Support Network (FSN) and to Mrs. Ritsia Turnbull-Smith of the Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly. St. Paul's makes the donations annually to FSN to assist it in its work of providing support primarily for victims of abuse and to the Home for the Elderly which provides residential care for seniors.
Photos left to right:
Mr. Leslie Smith, Mrs. Ritsia Turnbull-Smith, Pastor Elroy Liburd, Ms. Judith Charles
The congregation of St. Paul's Church, Sea Cow's Bay, in the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, has elected two teenagers to leadership positions. At the annual meeting, held on January 19th, members of the mission voted in 16 year old Cianna Williams to serve on the Bishop's Committee and elected 17 year old Sean Georges as Alternate Lay Delegate to Diocesan Convention. Both Cianna and Sean are active members of St. Paul's group and assist with mentoring younger members. They were commissioned by The Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs during a service held on February 3rd as part of patronal festivities.
News from St. Mary's
St. Mary’s in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands is steadily being rebuilt following Hurricane Irma. Workers are busy putting on the roof and getting the church ready for occupancy. In the meantime, services are held in the church hall which used to house St. Mary’s School. A while back the school declared itself independent and left the premises under a new identity as Ciboney Centre for Excellence.
The Anglican/Episcopal Church in the Virgin Islands has a lot of competition. Some sixty years ago there were two denominations on Virgin Gorda – Anglican and Methodist. Then the Church of God of Holiness arrived and siphoned off members from these two churches. Then Seventh Day Adventists came and took more people. Today there are many other churches, Baptist, different Pentecostal branches, and so the number of people worshipping at St. Mary’s and Valley Methodist Church has dwindled.
For some five years St. Mary’s has been without a vicar or a priest-in-charge. The Bishop of the Virgin Islands is the Canonical Rector and services are conducted by a supply priest who lives on Tortola. Kudos to the Rev. Esther Georges who until last year was the supply but who served as if though she was the salaried priest making home visits, leading Bible study, and just overall engagement. Now St. Mary’s has the energetic Rev. Erminie George, who is always there when needed.
I am not sure of the fate of the organ after the hurricane, but services in the church hall are held without music (there is a piano which gets played when Warren Wheeler, a frequent visitor from North Carolina, is in town). At the New Year’s Eve service members of the band Leon and the Hot Shots came and played – it was a joyful way to greet the new year singing and dancing. And even more uplifting, the church hall was packed with people. The Rev. Erminie George is bringing new vitality to St. Mary’s with meaningful messages of God’s love.
The Diocese of the Virgin Islands was abuzz in celebrating the 70th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood on December 19th of its Canon Emeritus, the Reverend Canon J. N. Keith Gibson. He also celebrated his 96th birthday on Christmas Day and the N in his initials aptly stands for Noel. Canon Gibson resides at the College of St. Barnabas, Lingfield, UK. He is the first priest I ever met and he always has a special place in my heart. May God continue to bless him with good health.
I ask your continued prayers for St. Mary’s and the people of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands.
By Yvonne O’Neal
The Episcopal Church of the Virgin Islands, Incorporated
Founded 1947 * Incorporated 1972
P.O. Box 7488, St. Thomas, VI 00801 340-776-1797 *Fax 340-777-8485
Office of the Bishop
August 6, 2018
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10
It has been some time since my last update, so I wanted to reach out and provide you with some updates on how the Diocese is assisting in the hurricane recovery efforts—as well as preparing for any future, potential disasters. Since the first days when the storms passed, we have been walking with our Companion Diocese in Alabama and Episcopal Relief and Development. And though we know that recovery has been slow and will take years to complete, we have made some significant progress.
As stated in my last update, we have formed the Diocesan Disaster Recovery Committee. This committee, consisting of members from each deanery, continue to meet monthly. The members are highly connected to the comprehensive recovery efforts in the USVI and BVI, are serving on committees, reporting back to each other, working closely with other organizations active in disasters, and providing oversight to the mini-grants program. The group also is tasked with keeping their perspective deaneries informed on the recovery efforts. To this end, Awareness Events have taken place on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. Additionally, our churches have been including updates in their weekly bulletins.
The mini-grants program, one supported by Episcopal Relief and Development and the Diocese of Alabama, is underway with grants having been awarded to churches throughout the Diocese. The goal of this program is to enhance current or potential outreach programs of our churches as they work to serve their communities during this time of recovery and preparedness. Grant applications are still being accepted! If your church has a program that could be enhanced through additional grant funding, please email our Disaster Response Consultant from Episcopal Relief and Development, Jay Rollins (firstname.lastname@example.org), with your ideas or questions.
In the BVI and St. Croix deaneries, Episcopal Relief and Development conducted Asset Recognition trainings. These day-long events use a “train the trainer” model to guide church leaders, lay and clergy, in recognizing the gifts of their church in the areas of recovery and preparedness. The same event will take place in the St. Thomas-St. John Deanery at All Saints Cathedral parish hall on August 18th.
The Diocese of Alabama, with additional support from the Diocese of El Camino Real, have consistently been sending clergy to the islands. These clergy have provided such a relief and service to us by filling in some gaps and allowing our clergy some time for self-care. The Diocese of Alabama is also preparing to send volunteer teams beginning in September. These teams, in partnership and coordination with our Diocese and other organizations active in recovery, will really help speed up the rebuilding efforts in our communities. In addition, the Diocese of Virginia in the initial stages of assisting us. We have had some consistent volunteers from the Mountain Christian Fellowship of Maryland.
Volunteer teams are critical for our recovery and they need housing while serving throughout the Diocese. We have been busy working to prepare some of our church spaces and other facilities to help welcome these teams. Beginning in September, St. Dunstan’s School (STX), Holy Spirit (STT), St. Luke’s (STT), Domini House (STT), Artistic Villas (STJ) and St. Georges (Tortola) will be prepared to host our teams from Alabama, Mountain Christian Church of Joppa, Maryland, as well as teams from across the mainland.
Our churches have also benefitted from various partnerships with other organizations. On Tortola, the churches have received preparedness training from Team Rubikon, U.K. On St. Croix, Lutheran Social Services have coordinated volunteers from The United Methodist Church to prepare St. Dunstan’s School for volunteer teams. And on St. Thomas, My Brother’s Workshop and the St. Thomas Long Term Recovery Group have provided the construction needed to convert Holy Spirit’s church to house volunteer teams. They have also provided the cleanup and removal of trash from Domini House. James Browne via Rev. Wells Warren of Alabama, and George Lavoie from Florida, two volunteers, have worked to transform the space.
We will continue to nurture these partnerships across the Diocese to the benefit of our communities. We have officially entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Episcopal Relief and Development to support the hiring of four staff positions focused on our recovery and preparedness needs. We will continue to provide our churches with resources, trainings, and support to prepare our families and communities for the future.
‘Soon and very soon’ we will have volunteers on all the five islands of the Diocese. To God be the Glory!
Your Servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs
Bishop Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands
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A letter from the Bishop:
Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
It has been six months since our diocese experienced great devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Within weeks, we witnessed the resurrection of the trees, the grass, the oceans. It has taken longer to bear witness to the recovery of our people. But, in our living hope through the resurrection, we are witnessing the recovery of our great diocese, our communities, and our spirits. I write to you today to highlight the work that has been taking place and to offer a word about the help that is to come.
With the partnership of Episcopal Relief and Development and the Alabama Diocese, we are working on recovery as well as positioning the diocese to be better prepared for the next storm. A Diocesan Disaster Recovery Committee consisting of representatives from each deanery has been formed:
Riise Richards (St. Thomas/St. John)
LeRoy Claxton (St. Thomas/St. John)
Angelica Schuster (St. Croix)
Gloria Euzebe (St. Croix)
Denise Reovan (BVI)
Cassandra Lanns (BVI)
Beverly Smith Hodge (BVI)
Trevaughn Todman (Youth rep)
Jay Rollins (Episcopal Relief and Development)
Judy Quick (Alabama Diocese)
These committee members are here to serve you and the communities in our diocese. In the coming weeks, they will be holding Awareness Dinners in each of the deaneries. This will be an opportunity for church members to meet with them, fellowship, learn more about the recovery, and ask questions.
Additionally, they will be launching a mini-grants program to congregations and institutions who want to engage in an outreach program or activity related to the recovery efforts. The gospel calls us to be instruments of God’s peace and justice in the world; the purpose of these mini-grants is to provide concrete assistance to projects to take action in your congregation, institution and/or community.
Brothers and sisters, we are not alone in this recovery. We have received and distributed numerous donations, welcomed support from Alabama and others around the U.S., and felt the prayers of the people around the world. We will continue to be resilient. We will continue to have hope. We will continue to be a resurrection people.
With the support of Episcopal Relief & Development, the Diocese is offering a program of mini-grants to congregations and institutions who want to engage in an outreach program or activity related to the hurricanes of August-September 2017 and recovery efforts. The gospel calls us to be instruments of God’s peace and justice in the world; the purpose of these mini-grants is to provide concrete assistance to projects to take action in your congregation, institution and/or community.
Mini-grant applications will be accepted beginning April 15, 2018 and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The last date for submission is July 15, 2018. For questions about the mini-grants program, please ask a Diocesan Disaster Recovery Committee person or Jay Rollins (email@example.com)
Click her for the Grant application
Care Teams from Alabama Diocese
Our companion diocese of Alabama has been with us in thoughts, prayers, and deeds as we have struggled through these turbulent times and into the recovery process. One of the ways that our sisters and brothers in Christ have been able to manifest their love was through a recent visit by a Care Team consisting of Christine Mercer and Margie Fox. These two women were able to come to All Saints Cathedral school for a week to work with the children, help the staff, and offer a ministry of presence.
As our diocese moves into the recovery process, Alabama stands ready to continue to support us with additional Care Teams as well as Construction/Rebuild teams. We are grateful for their support and extremely grateful to Rev. Judy Quick for her efforts in this work.
Clergy Initiative with the Alabama Diocese
Alabama clergy are scheduling visits now to Virgin Islands parishes to offer a bit of respite for Virgin Islands clergy. A huge thank you to the Rev Kathi Jacob, who served at St. John’s on St. Croix in January, and to the Rev Rosa Lindahl, who has just returned from serving at All Saints Cathedral. Rev. Lindahl not only covered the services, she also led the vestry on a retreat!
A number of clergy are planning visits over the next several months. A couple of clergy are considering serving at parishes in the Virgin Islands for their sabbaticals this summer.
Awareness Dinner on St. Croix
April 6, 2018: Diocesan Disaster Response Committee members Angelica Schuster and Gloria Euzebe, as well as Episcopal Relief and Development consultant Jay Rollins, met with congregation members from St. Peter's Episcopal Church on St. Croix. The purpose of the "Awareness Dinner" was to inform the how the diocese is working within our communities in the continuing recovery efforts. They also were made aware of opportunities to become more involved and plans for preparing for the upcoming storm season.
These events and trainings will take place on each island in the coming months. Please check this newsletter or ask a committee member about future events.
Awareness Dinner on St. Thomas: All parish members in St. Thomas are invited to attend an "Awareness Dinner" on April 21 at 1:00 pm in the parish hall of All Saints Cathedral Church. You will be introduced to Jay Rollins from Episcopal Relief and Development and then hear from St. Thomas committee members Riise Richards and LeRoy Claxton on recovery effort on island. They will also discuss what the diocese is doing for recovery and how we are preparing for the next storm season.
Volunteer Training on Tortola: Episcopal Relief and Development staff will be on Tortola (tentatively scheduled for June 2nd) to hold volunteer trainings. More details to follow!
Youth Engagement: Virgin Islands youth are invited to participate in 2018. We recommend that you register directly and then let us know who is coming, and when, so we can welcome your youth and their chaperones:
Cursillo: The planned Cursillo in the Virgin Islands for 2018 has been postponed until 2019. Pilgrims are welcome to the Alabama Cursillo Weekends: http://www.cursilloalabama.org/events or coordinate directly with John Poole.