Lions club honors veteran Vincentian priest

Veteran Vincentian-born Anglican (Episcopal) priest, the Rev. Canon Leopold Baynes, has received the Ecumenical Award, from a Lions club in Brooklyn.

Fr. Baynes, 72, who hails from Georgetown in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was honored recently by the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Stuy Park Lions Club at a gala ceremony at Antun’s, Jamaica, Queens.

“I thought it was time for somebody to honor him for the work he has done for many people in many communities,” Arlene Punnett, the club’s Panamanian-born president told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview.

“Fr. Baynes is who we consider to be a ‘people’s pastor’; he’s personable, very outgoing,” she added. “He helps whenever he can, at no cost. Some of our priests want to be paid for everything they do.”

“He has a lovely family who supports him wholely and fully,” continued Punnett, stating that the Lion’s Club “usually honors people who serve others.”

“The motto for the Lion’s Club is ‘We serve’, and Fr. Baynes does that well,” she said.

Fr. Baynes — who currently serves, simultaneously, as rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Corona, Queens and interim priest-in-charge at the Church of the Resurrection in East Elmhurst, Queens — told Caribbean Life that he was “honored to be honored by the Lions.”

“It’s not the first time they were asking me to accept this honor,” he said, adding that he was a Rotarian for a number of years while serving as a priest in St. Andrew’s, Grenada. Fr. Baynes was the rector for 18 ½ years in St. Andrew’s Parish where he met his wife, the former Miranda Sawney.

“I know what these organizations (including the Lions) are doing – helping the poor and less fortunate,” he continued. “God has been good to me over these years.”

Fr. Baynes — who was born to Venola Baynes, of Georgetown, and Donald Campbell, of Bequia in the St. Vincent Grenadines, on March 13, 1943 — said his father met his mother when his father managed the Georgetown Theater.

Baynes attended the Georgetown Government (Primary) School and took Saturday classes, after he became an elementary school teacher, at the former Richmond Hill Government School in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, renamed the Thomas Saunders Secondary School. He said former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Attorney General Parnel Campbell was one of his teachers.

Baynes, who also taught elementary school in Grenada, was admitted to Codrington College in Barbados in 1969 for training in the priesthood, graduating four years later.

In October 1973, Baynes was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priest at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingstown.

For three years (1973-76), he served as curate of Holy Trinity Parish, Castries, in the predominantly Roman Catholic St. Lucia.

Later, Fr. Baynes was appointed priest-in-charge for the parish of Grace Church, Riviere Doree, St. Lucia.

In 1978, he was appointed the first Black rector of St. Andrew’s Parish, Grenada; and, in 1983, was made Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in his native land. He also served as the Bishop’s Commissary in Grenada.

After migrating to the U.S. in 1995, Fr. Baynes attended Blanton Pale Graduate Institute in New York, where he studied pastoral care and counseling.

From 1995-1999, he served as Associate Priest and Priest-in-Charge at The Church of St. Mark’s in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

He became the first Black rector at Grace Episcopal Church on May 1, 1999. He plans to retire from the ministry by the end of April.

Fr. Baynes and his wife have two college-age daughters — Leona and Leandra.

He said he and his family are very active in the weekly feeding of hundreds of less fortunate people at Grace Church, adding that it’s a ministry that is “near and dear” to their hearts.

Canon Baynes said he was “humbled and grateful” for the Lion’s honor, stating that he “commits to continue to serve (as Lions do) through the work God has set out for him.”

He pointed to 1 Peter 4:10: “As every man hath receiveth the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

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