Vincentians in New York on Sunday began their 43rd anniversary of political independence from Great Britain with an in-person Service of Thanksgiving — the first in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2 ½ hour-long service – organized by the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A. (COSAGO), in conjunction with the Consulate General to the United States — took place at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Several Vincentian clergy officiated in the service, including Pastor Dorage Stephens, associate pastor, The Victory Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bronx, who brought the message; the Rev. Derwin Grant; Pastor Ronald Bailey; Bishop Robert Yearwood; Pastor Ronald John; and retired Canon Leopald Baynes.
Dr. Roxie Irish-Morris, a youth minister at the Miracle Temple Ministries, an evangelical church in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, served as liturgist.
The Rev. Morais Quissico, pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, brought welcome remarks and the opening prayer.
Vincentian diplomats — Lou-Ann G. Gilchrist, ambassador to the United States; I. Rhonda King, Ambassador to the United Nations; and Rondy McIntosh, consul general to the United States – attended and participated in the Service of Thanksgiving. St. Lucia’s Consul General to New York Jeremiah Hyacinth also attended the service.
Erlene Williams-King, a Vincentian-born soloist at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, gave a raving rendition of “The Lord is My Life” and sang the National Anthem of the United States.
Alyssa Seales played the National Anthem of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on steel pan, and St. Mark’s Chancel Choir belched out “You Can’t Beat God’s Giving” and “Total Praise.”
Preaching on the topic, “Passion: Saluting Our Heritage,”Pastor Stephens said that Vincentian heritage is “rich and dynamic” but lamented that “our culture and history are dying.”
“The things that define us are not liftep up to the next generation,” he warned. “We are not as Christian-minded as we used to be. Today, our moral fiber is decaying — from the Halls of the churches to the Halls of Parliament. Notice that I did not say Parliament only.
“You are your brother’s keeper,” Pastor Stephens reminded congregants. “Where is the brotherly love that once permeated our neighbor? The generation I had feared for God. Today, our generation has lost its fear of God.
“Every now and then, we need a reminder of our past to know where we’re coming from,” he continued. “We are called upon to remember our heritage. We are also to uplift our spiritual heritage. We must not fail as a people to continue this important heritage.
“Never forget the words of the National Anthem: ‘What ere the future brings, our faith will see us through…’” Pastor Stephens urged.
In endorsing his message, Dr. Irish-Morris retorted: “We need to remind the young generation of our heritage.”
Laverne McDowald-Thompson, COSAGO president, said that “coming together in one accord to celebrate St. Vincent and the Grenadines 43rd Anniversary of Independence is truly a blessing.
“Hence, we must give thanks to our Heavenly Father for his sparing mercies on our nation and its people,” she said in her Independence Message. “God has been truly good to us; especially when we take into consideration what we have gone through over the past two years.
“Anniversary celebrations are often for reflections,” she added. “While we take the time to reflect on our homeland, from whence we came to where we are as an independent nation, so, too, we must reflect on our organizations here in the Diaspora and our roles (being) played in the development of our country.”
She said COSAGO, along with many other organizations, is always involved in activities to give back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We give back to the schools, hospitals, clinics, families, individuals and community organizations,” McDowald-Thompson said. “We are fully aware that the government always needs the assistance of its people, especially with the rebuilding of our communities.
“As challenging as it has been for the past two years for the organizations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic here is the USA, they continue to make significant contributions to SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines),” she continued, noting that thousands of people were displaced as a result of the most recent La Soufriere volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“The combined relief efforts of our brothers and sisters seen in the Diaspora, to aid the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were commendable, with ongoing drives occurring to procure water and other much-needed supplies,” she said. “Thanks to the organizations and their leaders who stood united, especially at a time of national significance. Working together brings greater success. Thanks to all Vincentians and friends for a job well done!”
COSAGO’s Church Service Committee, chaired by Crispin Friday, spearheaded the Service of Thanksgiving.
The independence anniversary celebrations continued with a flag-raising ceremony in Newark, NJ on Monday and another flag-raising ceremony at Bowling Green, in the heart of the financial district in the Wall Street area in Lower Manhattan, and the lighting up of the Empire State Building in Manhattan in the national colors of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (green, blue and gold) — both on Thursday, Independence Day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The celebrations conclude on Sunday with a gala dinner and dance, organized by COSAGO), in conjunction with the Consulate General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United States, at Russo’s On The Bay, 162-45 Cross Bay Blvd., Howard Beach, Queens, NY, 11414.