The Westside Gazette

The Bahamas commemorate 40th anniversary as independent nation

Bahamas Father Denrick Rolle and Rev. Jerome Symonette
Bahamas Father Denrick Rolle and Rev. Jerome Symonette

The Bahamas commemorate 40th anniversary as independent nation

Bahamas Father Denrick Rolle Of St Agnes Episcopal Church

Bahamas Rev. Jerome Symonette Master Of Ceremonies

By Derek Joy

     Fittingly, the commemorative program at St. Agnes Episcopal Church in Miami’s Overtown added a spiritual balance to the historical, cultural and socio-economic significance of Bahamian independence.

The Bahamas is a chain of 700 islands in the Caribbean.  It thrived as a British Colony until gaining independence from Great Britain on July 10, 1973.

Thus the Commonwealth of the Bahamas was born.  Sir Lynden Pindling, the recognized “Father of Our Nation,” became the first Prime Minister.

And so, there was a local celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Independence of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

“I stand before you as a proud Bahamian.  The church is our foundation.  St. Agnes is one of the oldest churches in Miami,” Bahamian Deputy Consul General Miami Sandra P. Carey, said in her welcome address.

“Look around.  Nearby Gibson Park was named for a Bahamian, Father Theodore Gibson, who was an Episcopal Priest and city of Miami Commissioner.  John Culmer was the first Black Arch Deacon of the South Florida Diocese.  The next time you ride the Metrorail you’ll stop at the Culmer Station that was named for him.

“Our heritage here in South Florida is indeed rich.  Our forefathers left an indelible footprint in the sands.  Let us not rest on our laurels,” Carey concluded.

Academy Award winning actor/author Sir Sidney Poitier, singer/actress Beyonce Knowles, meteorologist/television personality Al Roker, actress Roxie Roker, Tennessee Titans defensive back Myron Rolle, former NBA stars Rick Fox and Mychal Thompson are just a few nationally and internationally known Bahamians.

Thompson, whose son Klay, is a starter for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, made his mark as a member of the Miami Jackson High School basketball team.  The Generals compiled a record of 33-0 en route to winning a Florida State High School Basketball Championship.

Rev. Jerome Symonette, pastor of Restoring Grace Community Church set an inspirational tone as Master of Ceremonies.

One by one, ministers of the gospel and government officials wowed the overflow audience with purpose.  Each spoke ever so eloquently of the progress of a people who value faith.

“This is an ecumenical worship service.  This service does not belong to any one religious denomination or any one people,” said Father Denrick Rolle, who, last December, replaced the retired Father Richard Marquess Barry as Priest/Rector of St. Agnes Episcopal Church.

At a recent Camillus House program honoring St. Agnes and six other local churches for their charitable support and cooperation in feeding the hungry, Marquess Barry made point of clarification.

“Yes.  Historic Mount Zion Baptist Church is recognized as the oldest church in Miami only because it was chartered first.  St. Agnes was actually founded and holding worship services before Mt. Zion was chartered in 1896,” Marquess-Barry noted at that program.

Rolle made that point to begin his message, which he based on the Gospel of St. Luke, 10:37.  He skillfully weaved a broader perspective of the collective highlights cited by each speaker on the program.

Historical facts.  Cultural growth.  Recognition of prominent Bahamians.  The legacies of Bahamian contributions to the growth and development of Miami and surrounding cities.

The celebratory worship service was made more entertainingly enjoyable by soloist Juanita Williams, who also performed duets with Kelson Roberts, and the music of the Edden Family Impact.

“The Edden Family is here to show God did not skip the Bahamas when He passed out musical gifts,” Symonette said.

Bahamian natives Joel and Marlene Edden have seven children – Roscoe, Beautiful, Unique, Light, Miracle and Truth, who are twins, and five year old Jonathan.  Joel performs with six of his children.

“We live in Vero Beach.  Roscoe and Beautiful were born in the Bahamas.  The other five were born here,” said Joel Edden, after performing a moving rendition of the gospel tune ‘I Just Want To Praise You’.

Carey joined Consul General H. Ricardo Treco, Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder, Minister of Labor and National Insurance Shane Gibson and Jamaican Consul Miami Dale Jones in sharing the wealth of Bahamian presence and influence.

“Go and do likewise is the bridge to our future,” said Rolle.  “It speaks to the need to stop fighting in the church.  The society we live in looks for excuses to live ungodly lives.  And we give it to them.

“We need to look to Jesus.  Be mindful not be negative, not be manipulative sources because God is positive.  Church has to be a place where honesty is expressed.  The only foundation we should live on is the foundation of love.”


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