Hundreds of Vincentians on Sunday crammed the pews of The Church of St. Mark, Episcopal (Anglican) in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn for an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving, as St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its 37th Anniversary of Independence.
The near three-hour-long service – at the church on Union Street, organized by the Brooklyn-based Vincentian umbrella group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), in collaboration with the New York Consulate General – drew nationals from throughout the New York metropolitan area.
The nation obtained political independence from Great Britain on Oct. 27, 1979.
The church service marked the beginning of week-long independence activities in the Big Apple, organized by COSAGO, culminating on Sunday, Oct. 30, with a gala Luncheon and Awards Ceremony at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.
Several Vincentian clergy officiated and participated in the Service of Thanksgiving, reading the Scriptures and offering myriad prayers, among other things.
The Rev. Claudius Davis prayed for the adopted country, the United States; Fr. Carver Israel prayed for the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Rev. Myron Ashton prayed for the youth; Bishop Robert Yearwood prayed for peace; Deacon Wilmoth Seaton prayed for the clergy; and the Rev. Simeon King prayed for thanksgiving. Rev. Dorage Stephens introduced the participating clergy.
The Scriptures were read by the Revs. Pester O’Garro, Dr. Roxie Irish and Derwin Grant. Bishop Kenroy Cuffy served as liturgist for most of the service, succeeded by Crispin Friday, elder brother of the Rt. Venerable Leopold Friday, Archbishop of the Windward Islands. Crispin Friday is chairman of the Independence Church Service Committee.
The Service was graced by the presence of United States Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
United Nations Ambassador I. Rhonda King, New York Consul General Howie Prince and COSAGO president Laverne McDowald-Thompson delivered brief independence remarks were delivered by. O’Brien Simmons, COSAGO’s treasurer, appealed to congregants to assist the organization’s disaster relief fund.
In his sermon, the Rev. Hoskins Prescott, the retired pastor at St. Leonard’s Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and member of the Independence Church Service Committee, appealed to nationals to “reach out to somebody, to help somebody, so your living will not be in vain.”
Preaching on the topic, “Call for Another Day of Service,” Rev. Prescott, said: “As a people called to a life of service, let us build bridges. No one [by him or herself] can build a city.”
Earlier in his message, Rev. Prescott noted that, in one’s Christian journey, “it has not been easy,” adding, however, that “when you have overcome the rough sides of mountain,” one should “help someone.
“We need to obey the words of Christ,” he exhorted, referring to the story of the Gospel of Luke that “teaches us: ‘We need to be good stewards of Jesus.
“As we celebrate the 37th year of independence, there is still some work to be done,” he added. “[The Book of] Galatians tell us [that] we need to bear each other’s burdens. Jesus, in his teachings and preaching left us a legacy of love.
“Our duty as Christians is clear,” Rev. Prescott continued. “Somewhere along the way, somebody cares about you, and his name is Jesus. And so, as we celebrate this day, I implore you to follow the path of Jesus Christ. Let love and togetherness be your motto.”
In his maiden Independence Church Service address in New York, Prince, the former head of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), said, while he was yet to receive Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves’ Independence Message, the Vincentian leader had asked him to convey that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is still beautiful.
In addition, Prince said the prime minister asked that nationals humble themselves and pray for the multi-island state.
The new consul general noted that music for the national anthem was composed by the late Pat Prescod, who also wrote the popular hymn, “The Right Hand of God.”
Prince then urged congregants to stand and sing lustily “The Right Hand of God.” They obliged.
Stating that St. Vincent and the Grenadines “holds a special place in our hearts,” McDowald-Thompson, a former elementary school teacher in her homeland, urged nationals to “pause and work to make our homeland prosperous.
“Brothers and sisters, you know unity is strength,” she said. “Don’t make our differences separate us.”
Besides the gala luncheon, COSAGO will host a free “Cultural Evening” Friday night, Oct. 28, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, 671 Prospect Pl., between Franklin and Bedford avenues in Brooklyn.