Candle light vigil for SVG minibus victims

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Praise Team at the candle light vigil.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Despite the very frigid and rainy weather, hundreds of nationals in the New York metropolitan area last Saturday night participated in a candle light vigil for the victims of the minibus tragedy in North Windward, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Friends, we gather here, we come together in grief, acknowledging our human loss,” the Rev. Dr. Glyger Beach told congregants at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, which hosted the event, in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

“In pain, we may find comfort; and, in death, resurrection,” added the church’s pastor, who hails from Brighton.

“Remember, we’re the light,” continued Rev. Beach, as ushers distributed candles at the two-hour-long event. “Where our people are suffering, His (Christ) hands shall reach out. Light sustains us. God be with us.”

Dr. Roxie Irish, youth minister at the evangelical Miracle Temple Ministries International in Brownsville, Brooklyn, offered prayers for all mothers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially those who lost children in the accident.

Before praying, Irish, who is also president of the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn, referred to Isaiah 42:2, and asked all mothers in the congregation to stand and place their right hand on their stomach.

Isaiah 42:2 reads: “When thou passes through the waters, I’ll be with thee; and through the rivers, we shall not overflow thee. And when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

“Father, we lift up every mother who’s lost a child (in the tragedy),” Irish prayed. “Cover their minds; Father, you’re going to walk with them in the name of Jesus.

“God, we want to glorify you; so, Father, we want to thank you for who you are,” she added. “Lord, have your Holy Spirit look over St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The Rev. Cornelius Olive, pastor of Trinity Apostolic Church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, read Samuel 12:20.

Lennox “Skully” Hunte, a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister in Brooklyn, alluded to Matthew 18 in stating that “God is in absolute control.”

Hunte, an erstwhile popular mas producer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, described the tragedy as devastating and reflected also on the Christmas 2013 freak storm that left at least seven people dead and a trail of damage and destruction.

“But, we must say ‘God is in control’, and we ought to be prepared,” he said.

Among dignitaries who attended the vigil were: United Nations Ambassador I. Rhonda King; New York Counsel General Selmon Walters; Deputy New York Counsel General Sehon Marshall; former New Democratic Party (NDP) minister and counsellor at the Mission to the United Nations Bernard Wyllie; and Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A. Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the United States.

After the congregation rendered “How Great Thou Art”, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Praise and Worship Team brought more solemnity with “You Raise Me Up” and “You are My Strength (When I am Weak).”

A number of Vincentian gospel artistes also sang praises before and during the lighting of the candles.

They comprised: Stephen Mayers (“People Need The Lord”); Andean Charles (“What Don’t Kill Will Make You Stronger”); Garfield Bowens (“Ride Out The Storm”); Kathleen Hills (“One Day at a Time”); Monodel Ollivierre (“Beulah Land”); and Cherise King (“Hold Fast Your God”).

With the candles lit, the gospel artistes led the congregation with “It Only Takes a Spark,” “Hold Out the Candle,” “My Heart, My Soul Belongs to You,” and “It is Well with My Soul.”

Congregants danced and shouted “Allelujah” with the singing of songs/ hymns.

A congregant in the back pew also wailed as the names of some of the victims scrolled on the screen behind the altar: “Annique Alexander – 11 years old; Chaustacia Stay (missing), 15 years old; Glenroy Michael, 12 years old; Jamalie Edwards, 14 years old; Racquel Ashton, 18 years old; Simonique Ballantyne (missing).”

“In spite of what we’re going through, let’s give God the praise,” said Bowens before rendering “Ride Out The Storm,” disclosing that the Bowens originated from Fancy, the most northerly village on mainland St. Vincent, where the victims had resided.

He said five of his relatives were travelling on the minibus on that fateful day; four were injured and the other died.

“I was not close to them, but they are (were) my relatives,” Bowens told the congregation.

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