Barbadian Episcopal rector wants ‘healing, reconciliation’ in Israeli-Hamas War

The Rev. Sheldon Hamblin delivers the Homily in April 2023 at the funeral in Long Island, for former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, Dennie Wilson.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The Barbadian-born rector of St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush in Brooklyn is calling for “healing and reconciliation” in the Israeli-Hamas War.

St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush is an Episcopal (Anglican) Parish in the Diocese of Long Island and a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

Rector the Rev. Sheldon N.N. Hamblin told Caribbean Life on Friday that, “In the heart of conflict, where the echoes of strife reverberate through the ancient lands of Gaza and Israel, the narrative of peace is often shrouded in the tumult of war.

“As we delve into the complexities of the Hamas-Israel conflict, it is essential to navigate this discourse with a lens that seeks understanding, healing and reconciliation, much like the soothing essence of the balm in Gilead, a metaphor for spiritual and physical healing deeply rooted in the Negro spiritual tradition,” Fr. Hamblin said.

“The conflict between Hamas and Israel is a manifestation of a protracted struggle, marked by cycles of violence, ceasefires and negotiations,” he added. “Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group, has been at the forefront of the Palestinian fight against Israel, claiming to resist occupation and fight for Palestinian liberation.

“Israel – a nation-state established as a homeland for Jews – views Hamas as a terrorist organization committed to the annihilation of Israel,” Fr. Hamblin continued. “This fundamental clash of ideologies and national aspirations has led to numerous conflicts, causing significant civilian casualties and suffering on both sides.”

From the perspective of this Black West Indian Episcopal priest, Fr. Hamblin viewed the conflict “not just as a geopolitical struggle but as a profound spiritual crisis that underscores the universal yearning for peace, dignity and freedom.

“The narrative is thus not one of taking sides but rather fostering an understanding that transcends political and religious divides,” he said. “Drawing on the rich heritage of the Negro spirituals, such as ‘There Is a Balm in Gilead,’ there’s a message of hope and healing that resonates deeply with the plight of all those caught in the crossfire of the Gaza conflict.”

Rev. Hamblin noted that “There Is a Balm in Gilead” is “a spiritual that speaks to the deep sense of healing and redemption found in the Christian faith.

“It suggests that no matter the depth of suffering or despair, there is always a source of comfort and relief – a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,” he said.

In applying this spiritual wisdom to the context of the Hamas-Israel war, he said it invites “a reflection on the power of empathy, forgiveness and the pursuit of peace as divine imperatives.”

In this light, Fr. Hamblin said the role of faith leaders, such as Black West Indian Episcopal priests, “becomes crucial in advocating for peace and reconciliation.

“They can draw upon their spiritual traditions and the universal messages like those found in the verses of the Negro spirituals to champion a discourse that emphasizes common humanity over division,” he said. “They can serve as mediators, using their platforms to promote dialogue, understanding and mutual respect among disparate groups.”

Fr. Hamblin said the conflict in Gaza, with its deep historical roots and contemporary political complexities, “challenges us to look beyond the immediate narratives of victim and victor.

“Indeed, it calls for a deeper engagement with the stories, aspirations and sufferings of all those involved,” he said.

As faith leaders and communities around the world reflect on the message of “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” Fr. Hamblin said “there is a collective responsibility to work towards the healing of nations and peoples torn apart by conflict.

“Therefore, as we stand at the crossroads, the path to peace in Gaza and Israel is fraught with challenges,” he said. “Yet, inspired by the healing message of the Negro spirituals, there is hope that empathy, dialogue and a shared commitment to human dignity can pave the way for a future where both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security.

“As we seek the Balm in Gilead, let us remember that the pursuit of peace is not only a political necessity but a moral and spiritual imperative that binds us all together as one,” Fr. Hamblin added.

In addition to his role as rector, Fr. Hamblin, who migrated to New York in 1995, serves the church and community in several capacities, including promoting active interest in communal and civic affairs.

Rev. Hamblin serves as a trustee of the Estate of the Diocese of Long Island. He also serves as an active member of the Church Avenue BID, the 67th Precinct Clergy Council and the Prospect Park Community Committee.

He also serves on the board of the Episcopal Urban Caucus and Union of Black Episcopalians. Fr. Hamblin is a member of the Black Clergy Caucus in the Diocese of Long Island.

He has served on the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Long Island and the Diocesan Chaplain for the Daughters of the King.

In the past, Fr. Hamblin has served on the Department of Missions, the Board of Directors of Episcopal Charities and the Diocesan Youth Ministries.

Rev. Hamblin received his M.Div. from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 2003.

Prior to attending seminary, Fr. Hamblin worked for People Magazine. He held an internship with the New York Times.

In 1999, he graduated from New City Technical College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Arts Production Management.

Fr. Hamblin is married to Lisa, and they have a daughter, Christina.

St. Paul’s Church in the Village of Flatbush is located at 157 St. Paul’s Place, Brooklyn, NY 11226.

You can reach Fr. Hamblin at: Office: (718) 282-2100 ~ Parish Mobile: (347) 485-8286;;; Instagram: @stpaulsflatbush.