By Father Chester Burton
THE excitement of the recent Patronal Festival of St Mary Magdalene will linger in the hearts and minds of many of its members as it signified the first time that an Anglican Ordinand preached at such an event in North Long Island. Ordinand Eric Miller was on assignment in South Long Island for the entire month of July working under the tutelage of Canon Harry Ward, Rector of St. Paul’s Parish, South Long Island.
Mr Miller hails from St Agnes Parish in Grant Town; he spent the earlier years of his childhood serving around the altar of the one of the biggest churches in New Providence.
Eric has just completed his first year of study at the Codrington College Theological Institute where many Anglican clergy test their vocation before preparing for ordained ministry in the Anglican Diocese.
On Sunday, July 27, the family of St Peter’s and Paul’s parishes came together amidst the pomp and pageantry of the day. Mr Miller was the preacher for this auspicious occasion, while Father Chester Burton assisted.
In his sermon, Mr Miller took his text from the gospel passage applicable for the feast day of St Mary Magdalene. It is John’s gospel chapter 20, verses 11-18 in which Mary Magdalene stands at the entrance of Jesus’ tomb weeping, inside were two angels sitting where the body of Jesus was laid The angels asked why she was weeping and Mary exclaimed that they had taken away her Lord and she did not know where they laid Him. Immediately after saying this, Jesus appears and asks Mary why is she weeping. She then calls Jesus by the name of ‘Rabbouni’ (teacher) and leaves to tell the Disciples that she has seen the Lord.
Mr Miller admonished the congregation that Mary had many strikes against her, but Jesus saw beyond her imperfections and called her to be a witness of His resurrection.
With his sermon, Mr Miller sought to sensitise the membership body to the intrinsic value of Mary Magdalene after Jesus had called her from a life of sin and degradation. She is considered one of the most important women in the New Testament, second only to Mary the Mother of Jesus.
In his welcome address, Father Burton said this was a grand time for many, including himself, because it served as the first time an ordinand pontificated so well in the most northern Church of St Peter’s Parish.
Father Burton was ordained ten years on the feast day of St Mary Magdalene ,which is celebrated each year on July 22, and he was ordained to the Diaconate on July 25 some eleven years ago. He said he is humbled to have served the Diocese valiantly over this significant time span. He remembered commencing his training at St Anne’s in Fox Hill under Canon Crosley Walkine, after which time he was transferred to St Luke’s Parish in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, to assist Father Andrew Toppin and serve as the first Anglican senior master of the government high school of Preston H Albury.
After two years he relocated to Cat Island, the birth place of his mother, to traverse the dusty roads of that community.
Finally, Father Burton’s journey has landed him in Long Island, the home of sheep runners. This August 13 will mark four years since he has called Long Island his home.
This year was difficult one for Father Burton after the loss of his wife Coral Patrice and mother Eulie Fernander in January.
After a mourning period, he returned vibrant and energetic to continue the work mandated to him by God.
Father Burton said he believes that patronal festivals and feast of titles are seen as monumental and memorable occasions in the life of a parish and should never be celebrated in a lacklustre fashion.
He said the presence of parishioners from North Long Island’s community and the St Paul’s members who travelled from as far south as Gordons to boost his spirit made the patronal festival a grand occasion. Also in attendance was Pastor J’Vante Cooper, who brought along a cadre of his members from the Church of God in The Bight.
After the eucharistic celebration, members processed down Queen’s Highway, lifting their voices to one of the ancient hymns of the Church, “Onward Christian Soldiers”.
Following the service, members and well-wishers retreated to the courtyard of St Mary Magdalene’s for a sumptuous dinner reception organised by the church council.