In preparing this New Year greeting, I want to first look back and assess the road which I have travelled.
As a young girl approximately aged 14 years, I had an overwhelming sense of being called to ministry.
There was however a big hurdle, women were not being accepted for ordained ministry within the Anglican Church (Church of England).
I recalled at that very early stage telling God that I believed he had called me so I would be faithful to that call and leave him to work out how it was going to happen. It literally took years.
I trained with the Church Army at first and became an Evangelist and some years later, I was finally ordained as a deacon and in 1994, when women were first allowed to be priest, I was ordained.
Throughout all the ministry that I have been engaged in I have experienced much joy and fulfilment. However this did not mean there were no challenging moments because there were.
Each time I came across a hurdle I would call on God and in my typical Jamaican style, I would sing to my heart’s content.
I loved all the people I was called to serve, even the challenging ones.
This led to me becoming a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The latter role I held for just over 9 years. It was a role that brought me into contact with a wide variety of political leaders, even meeting President Barak Obama!
2019 however, had other things in store for me. Just at the time when I decided that I would continue to serve our nation’s leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury told me that I had been selected to be the next Bishop of Dover.
I wept at the news (and they were not tears of joy but disbelief). You see, I never thought that I would see this happen.
Fast forward and on the 19th of November this year, I was consecrated at St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a packed congregation as people came from all over the country and abroad to witness this event for themselves and to offer me their support.
Jermaine Jackman sang “Precious Lord take my hand” at the point when the episcopal ring was being given to me.
The Adventist Chorale also sang. I was deeply moved to tears (this time, of joy).
On November 30, there was another packed cathedral, (this time Canterbury) as people again wanted to share their support and solidarity with me as I was installed in this most infamous of all cathedral.
For these two occasions, I felt ‘visited’ by God. So many of the letters, emails, messages and phone calls said the same thing, “I am so proud of you.”
This was a ‘feel good’ moment! I am still feeling great about this rather overwhelming experience.
In my life chart, 2019 will be the year with huge mountains climbed.
What is fantastic is that I did not climb it alone. In some instances, I stood on the shoulders of those who went before (with their permission of course), as I tried to get a glimpse of the “promised land”.
I did not travel alone – my husband, my two daughters, my son and a whole host of others, accompanied me on the journey too. It’s been a long journey, but gradually we’re seeing the change that is coming. Together, we’re being the change that we want to see.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, if you want to get where you are going fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, take others with you.
I only got this far because you were willing to travel with me. Thank you.
Going forward into 2020 let us continue where we left off. Let us travel together so that we can go far. What I have experienced from just being made a bishop is that my story has become your story and your story, my story.
As we begin this New Year, 2020, perhaps we can live out the Zulu word, “UBUNTU” – ‘I am because we are’.
In other words, I discover who I am because of my relationship with you.
Let us build the kind of quality relationships with each other; model this to our children’s generation and perchance we might just ultimately discover God’s will and purpose for our lives as we are privileged to see another New Year.